Back To The FPL Future: GW9

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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.

In these weekly articles we’ll look at the last 5 seasons of each fixture, 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. We’ll then reconcile this historical data with what we are seeing this season, current form, injuries etc.

Common themes, potential upsets, unexpected blanks or hauls for certain players. There are well known examples like how Jamie Vardy loves to score against Arsenal. Or how Harry Kane loves to score against Arsenal. Or how Kevin de Bruyne loves to score against Ar…. you get the idea.

So, let’s take a look at the GW9 fixtures:

ARSENAL V ASTON VILLA

There have only been a couple of fixtures in the last 5 seasons thanks to Villa’s time in the Championship. It’s not enough data to draw any conclusions from but neither of the previous games went smoothly for Arsenal, who will be hoping for 3 points here in the Friday night kick off. The Gunners went down to 10 men in the 19/20 fixture and twice had to come from behind before stealing a win in the dying minutes, and then slumped to a 3-0 defeat last season. This could hint at something of a bogey fixtures for the home side, but as mentioned there is only a couple of recent seasons to look at so nothing to draw strong conclusions from.

It would be a surprise to see a repeat of the 3-0 from last season it must be said; since that game Arsenal have found more defensive solidity and have made some progress despite being the youngest squad in the league. In fact, it’s generally the goal scoring side of things which is more of an issue for Arsenal these days, having scored a modest 7 goals in 8 games so far.

It also remains to be seen (at the time of writing) how long Saka will be missing for after he suffered an injury following a horrific challenge from James McArthur, which left everyone scratching their heads as to how the Palace man wasn’t sent off (spoiler alert: the answer is Mike Dean). Saka made his first Premier League start in this fixture in 2019 so there is some history here, although the youngster may not have the best memories following his unfortunate own goal last season. It will be interesting to see if Lacazette earns a rare start in this one, after making such a notable difference to the side after coming on against Palace even before he scored the equaliser.

Both of these sides were on different ends of last minute goals in Gameweek 8, with Villa conceding in the 95th minute to lose at home to rivals Wolves, whilst Arsenal themselves scored in the 95th minute to earn a last minute draw. It will be interesting to see if there are any psychological effects from these last minute turnarounds last time out. This is a hard match to call a result for; recent history as well as current form suggests this will be a tough one for the Gunners, who will nevertheless be hoping for all 3 points at the Emirates.

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CHELSEA V NORWICH


There is just the 1 fixture in the last 5 seasons for this one, but we don’t need that to tell us that Chelsea are expected to win comfortably over bottom of the table Norwich here.

It was only 1-0 last time, however, and it could be argued that Norwich have made some defensive improvements in recent weeks with consecutive clean sheets (although this was only versus Burnley and xG teases Brighton). Chelsea have also hardly been free scoring this season under Tuchel, who seems to be setting the team up to be hard to beat first and foremost and then score 1 or 2 goals through the sheer quality they have up front, rather than being particularly creative. They are averaging 2 goals per game this season but have conceded just 3 in 8. As was the case at Brentford, could we see another frustratingly narrow win for the Blues here in the Saturday early kick off?

The flip side of this is that Chelsea have played some very tough fixtures in the opening games of the season which will naturally dent their attacking output. The Blues have already played Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs as well as visiting a very tough-to-beat Brentford side last week. Their fixtures ease significantly from Gameweek 9, so it may just be a case that we are yet to see Chelsea in full swing. It’s certainly hard to imagine the sheer quality difference between these sides not affording a couple of goals to Chelsea. We did, however, see key men Lukaku and Werner go off injured part way through the first half of their Champions League tie on Wednesday, with Tuchel later confirming the duo will miss ‘some games’. This is very frustrating for owners of the Belgian particularly, who were looking forward to his first attacking returns since Gameweek 4.

Despite these absences, Chelsea should still have too much for this Norwich side and there remains a vast difference in quality between the two teams. Just how many goals Chelsea might score, however, seems rather unclear now. Perhaps a repeat of the 1-0 from 2019 is indeed on the cards? What does seem almost certain though is a Chelsea clean sheet; no team has conceded less goals than Chelsea so far this season (3) and no team has scored fewer goals than Norwich so far (2). Incoming 2-0 Norwich win then?

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CRYSTAL PALACE V NEWCASTLE

Well this has hardly been the most exciting fixture historically. These sides have averaged 0.5 and 0.8 goals per game over the last 5 meetings at Selhurst Park, not surprising when you consider that most of these were overseen by Roy Hodgson and Steve Bruce. Neither of them will be in charge when these sides meet on Saturday, however, and both teams are in very different places this season.

Palace have been very impressive under new boss Patrick Vieira, playing a much more attacking brand of football and playing out from the back with the best of them. The Eagles were unlucky to draw at Arsenal, although were fortunate to still have 11 men on the field after McArthur’s antics in the first half with Palace 1-0 down.

Newcastle, in contrast, have been one of the worst teams in the league, remain winless with 3 draws and 5 defeats and sit comfortably in the relegation zone. They also finally sacked Steve Bruce (which had been coming for some time) in midweek following the defeat to Spurs, and so will now visit Selhurst Park without a permanent manager in place. It’s not boding well for Newcastle then. Their main issue is that they are so poor at defending, it makes it hard to see where any win will come from. They seem capable of conceding 2 or 3 goals in every game. Unless something changes soon, they may well be the richest team in the Championship.

This should be a game where the Palace attackers have some joy. If you own them and were maybe considering selling them, perhaps hold fire for this game as this is the one of the best opportunities for points they will have. If you don’t own any, perhaps you fancy a punt in the ‘target Newcastle and Norwich’ strategies, or maybe there is just a place to fill in your team following the latest batch of injuries. Either way, you might consider the likes of Edouard, who notched his 3rd goal of the season against Arsenal with a sublime finish that Ramsdale could do nothing about, or Conor Gallagher who continues to impress in midfield and be central to everything good that Palace create.

Far removed from Palace teams of recent years, this side look capable of scoring at least a couple of goals against even the tougher teams in the league. They have scored 2 or more goals against Arsenal, Leicester, Spurs and West Ham already, and you wonder if this has the potential for a bit of a thrashing. In contrast to recent historical results, this could be a low-key goal fest.

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EVERTON V WATFORD

This has been, as you’d expect, a one-sided fixture over the last 5 seasons. Everton have won 3 of the last 4 before Watford were relegated for the 20/21 season, and boast almost double the goals to Saturday’s visitors in that time.

Watford have been poor this season and come into this one off the back of a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Liverpool in Gameweek 8. It’s not the best context to come into this fixture with, although perhaps we will start to see some sort of new manager bounce creep in over their next few games, something which we were always unlikely to see against a frightening Liverpool side last week.

Something which may count in Watford’s favour is the increasing injury list at Everton. The Toffees have now lost Doucoure with a broken foot, and it’s been advised that he may not play again this year. The midfielder has been one of Everton’s most dangerous players under new boss Rafa Benitez, and surely would have relished a chance to show his best against his old club here. If that wasn’t enough, it has been confirmed that Calvert-Lewin suffered a setback in his recovery from injury and now will likely be out for a further few weeks again. Another Everton dangerman Richarlison remains doubtful following a knee injury.

It certainly makes Everton assets less appealing all around with possibly their 3 best players injured, and it means there could well be something in this game for Watford who have scored 2 goals in 2 of their last 4 visits to Goodison Park. Ismaila Sarr seems a likely beneficiary against a weakened home side. Could this game be a potential trap for Everton assets? I certainly don’t think you’d want to be buying any for this one now.

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LEEDS V WOLVES

With the caveat that the 16/17 and 17/18 games were Championship fixtures, Leeds do not have a good recent home league record against Saturday’s visitors. In fact Leeds have not scored in this fixture in the last 3, with Wolves winning every game including a strong 3-0 in 17/18. Given Leeds’ struggles this season and Wolves’ performances so far, its not looking good for the home side.

To compound matters, Leeds are missing key first team trio Patrick Bamford, Kalvin Philips and Luke Ayling, although Bielsa has confirmed that Raphinha is now back in contention and surely starts here. Wolves are towards the top of the table in most underlying stats both attacking and defensive, highlighting their strong performances so far. Leeds meanwhile have looked a shadow of their former selves even when they have had a fully fit first team, and you just cannot see where a Leeds goal is going to come from if Raphinha doesn’t whip up something magic (which he is certainly capable of).

Leeds have been extremely poor defensively so far too, conceding the 3rd most goals of any team in the league (15), behind Norwich (16) and Newcastle (19) who both sit soundly in the relegation zone. Leeds could join them there this weekend if results don’t go their way, with Burnley 3 points behind them on identical goal difference. There are worrying signs for Leeds at the moment and you fear for their premier league safety if they don’t find a way to arrest the slide. It would be a shame to lose a team like Leeds from the league, who have played such entertaining football and captured the hearts of neutrals last season with their thrilling displays.

There should be goals in this one for Wolves; Jimenez will be licking his lips, and the Mexico international did score here last season. Popular budget wildcard pick Hwang will also be keen to add to his tally and cement his place in the starting line-up. It also seems likely that we’ll also see a Wolves clean sheet unless Raphinha has anything to say about it.

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SOUTHAMPTON V BURNLEY

This has been a close fixture in recent seasons, with 2 Burnley wins as well as 2 Southampton wins and a draw. The goals scored by both sides in this time is also remarkably similar. Could this be something of a bogey fixture for the Saints?

In their favour is that Burnley have been particularly poor so far this season; the Clarets are winless with 5 losses and 3 draws so far and currently sit in the relegation zone. Southampton meanwhile have not exactly been pulling up trees in attack, but have been very resolute defensively. Most notably they held Man City to a 0-0 draw at the Etihad, as well as holding West Ham to a 0-0 and also restricting Man Utd to a low score draw. Burnley, who have scored the 2nd fewest goals of any team in the league so far (5) behind Norwich (2), certainly seem to have their work cut out for them to get any attacking returns at St. Mary’s

They have managed 2 goals in each of the last 2 seasons here though, and there were some signs of life even in defeat against Man City last week. They will be desperate for their first win of the season and may feel quietly confident at a ground where they have a decent record in recent years. This is a tough one to call though, especially given both sides’ struggles in attack so far. Perhaps another goalless draw as we saw in 18/19? I’ll take my Livramento clean sheet points and be happy with that. Just how long will Burnley go without a win this season though?

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BRIGHTON V MANCHESTER CITY

Unsurprisingly, City are dominant in this fixture in recent years. They have an astonishing average of 3.3 goals per game (from just 4 games) at the Amex since Brighton were promoted to the Premier League.

They did lose 3-2 last season, but context is important here as City had just clinched the Premier League title and were given a guard of honour by Brighton before kick off. City had raced to a 2-0 lead before fading as the game went on, so, all things considered, perhaps this one was just an outlier.

This years’ City team do seem a little less free-scoring than City teams of the past however, so you wonder if they will hit the goalscoring heights of previous seasons in this one. It also remains to be seen what impact, if any, City’s mideweek European exploits will have on them going into this one. It doesn’t seem to have adversely affected them in previous meetings judging by the history!

Where both of these teams excel is defensively. City are by a long distance the best defence in the league by all metrics, but Brighton themselves have also been impressive and sit 3rd in most of those same defensive metrics. It suggests that this could be a game where high quality chances are at a premium, which is interesting given the historically high goal volume between these sides at the Amex.

It’s hard to grasp how this one will play out trying to reconcile historical results and current performances, but it’s certainly interesting that this year this fixture represents 3rd vs 4th in the league! Brighton are simply a very good team who just struggle to score the goals that their performances merit; they shocked many top teams last year including Saturday’s visitors.

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BRENTFORD V LEICESTER

There is no table to look at for this fixture as there have been no league meeting between these sides in the last 5 years. This will be the case with most of Brentford’s fixtures this season of course.

Leicester has not looked the most confident or particularly strong before the Utd game last week, nevertheless they put them to sword emphatically thanks in no small part to Utd’s own dismal performance. Brentford games have proved notoriously hard to predict so far, but they always make it very hard for opponents. They have never been completely turned over, they always appear capable of scoring versus any team in the league (just ask Liverpool) and you write them off at your peril.

Statistically, Brentford are one of the top 4 or 5 defences in the league by many metrics and are conceding less than a goal per game on average so far. Only Liverpool (6), Brighton (5), Man City and Chelsea (both 3) have conceded less goals than the Bees so far. This is made more impressive when you consider that they have achieved this despite having played Chelsea, West Ham, Liverpool, Wolves and Arsenal in that time.

Leicester will have a hard time trying to breach what has so far been an elite defence, although Vardy usually seems to find a way. The veteran goalscorer will be even more popular amongst FPL managers now following the injury to Lukaku in midweek. Leicester themselves have looked vulnerable defensively, so there are definitely goals to be had for the home side too. Mbuemo has been very popular as a cheap but also exciting enabler for many managers, whilst many will still be on Toney or bringing him back in following Lukaku’s aforemention injury.

With no league history to examine and plenty of potential, it will be very interesting to see how this one plays out.

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WEST HAM V TOTTENHAM

This has been a relatively close fixture in recent seasons as shown by the goals scored in this time, but Spurs have a narrow edge with 3 wins to 2.

Spurs have not not looked particularly amazing this season. Despite ending their abysmal losing streak (in which they conceded 9 goals in 3 games) with 2 consecutive wins, it must be noted that these wins came against one of the worst teams in the league Newcastle and against a Villa team still in transition and missing key players.

Kane and Son will always be a threat to any team, but neither player has the strongest record at West Ham. Kane has 3 goals in the last 5 (2 of these in the same game mind) whilst Son has just 1 goal and 1 assist (both of these again coming in the same game). West Ham started the season very strongly but have tailed off a little bit in recent weeks. They scraped a 1-0 win at a depleted Everton despite not playing particularly well, but maybe that hard fought win will galvanise them somewhat.

It must be said that this article is being written prior to either of these sides playing their European games, so it is unclear at this stage if there are any injuries or repercussions from those. London Derbies are always a bit spicy so this should be a good game; we’ve also had no draws in this fixture in the last 5 seasons, which suggests we may see a winner here on Sunday. Popular FPL forward and West Ham talisman Michail Antonio may have something to say about that, and he has a goal in each of the last 2 fixtures here including the 2-1 win over Spurs last season.

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MANCHESTER UTD V LIVERPOOL

Well what a spicy game to end the gameweek with. 3 draws and a win each shows how close historically this fixture has been, and it’s also very even in the goals scored in that time.

Utd were thrashed last season though, losing 4-2 which is a scoreline they’ll be eager to avoid seeing again after last week’s result at Leicester. Utd are in poor form though and were atrocious at the King Power last week. There were questions being asked about whether Ronaldo unbalances the team and adds to the number of players who don’t seem to want to run or press the ball very much. The comeback victory in midweek may quell some f those questions for now, but clearly there are major issues in this Utd squad.

Liverpool in contrast are in some of the best form we have ever seen them in. They look quick, strong, confident and hungry in every game, and have been imperious since Gameweek 1. Utd do have a habit of turning it on in the bigger games, although that certainly didn’t happen last season in this fixture. It remains to be seen what they have in their locker to deal with this Liverpool side, but they will also have had a day less to prepare for this having played a day later than Liverpool in the Champions League.

Salah is in the form of his life and seems to be able to score against any opposition at will, as shown with his obscene goal in the top of the table clash with Man City a few weeks ago. He will be one of, if not THE top captaincy choice this week and Utd could be in for a tough night against their old rivals. Will we see another goal fest like last season? Salah captainers will certainly be hoping so.

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Summary:

GW9 fixtures to target:

Chelsea v Norwich

Manchester Utd v Liverpool

Potential GW9 standout/star player(s):

Jimenez

Chilwell

Cancelo

Salah

Potential GW9 upsets/traps:

Everton v Watford

Southampton v Burnley

Potential GW9 goal fests:

Chelsea v Norwich

Crystal Palace v Newcastle

Brighton v Manchester City,

Manchester Utd v Liverpool

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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