FPL GW19 – Gameweek Preview

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Hi everyone, firstly, let me say Happy Christmas to you all and that I hope you and your loved ones are staying safe. Secondly, let me say welcome to my new article. These will become a regular release around the day before each Gameweek deadline and I hope they help you when making your FPL decisions each Gameweek.

The articles will be a combination of data analysis, upcoming fixture analysis and some gut feel from me in terms who I am and who I think you should be considering for your FPL squads. They will generally be based on the following format:

  • Best current tactics and structure
  • Best current defensive options
  • Best current midfield options
  • Best current forward options
  • Best current differentials
  • My Gameweek team reveal

FPL, and life in general, is pretty unpredictable at the minute, but we’ll base all analysis on what we know at point of writing and we’ll try and release as close as possible to Gameweek deadlines, so we have the most recent possible knowledge, but also give you chance to consume and process the information as part of your decision making process.

So, without further ado, let’s get stuck into it ahead of the busy festive period of FPL fixtures.

Best current tactics and squad structure

The situation with game postponements du to COVID infections recently has made planning your FPL squad particularly difficult. I have 3 strategies to deal with this:

  1. Spread funds around your squad. Having a strong playing bench is essential right now
  2. Try and limit yourself to double-ups at most with any one team, this should give you flexibility if that teams game gets called off
  3. Be less concerned about taking hit. Swapping a playing player for a non-playing player is only really a -2 at worst in most instances

I’m also focussing funds on Midfielders and Defenders right now. Only 3 of the top 20 most ‘in-form’ players are forwards and it’s the same number across the whole season so far. Only 5 of the top 20 ‘best value’ players so far this season are not a Goalkeeper or a Defender.

Lastly, it’s very difficult to have any certainty around any fixtures at the moment, but we need to keep one eye on the African Cup of Nations due to kick off prior to gameweek 22. Chelsea will also be involved in the FIFA World Club Championships during gameweek 24 and 25 giving us our first official blanks of the season (Brighton and Arsenal are the other 2 teams affected).

Best current defensive options

Manchester City currently have the 2nd best defence in the league over the last 6 gameweeks conceding only 3 goals and keeping 3 clean sheets. Only Wolves have conceded fewer goals (2 in their last 6 with 4 clean sheets) of the teams that have played 6 fixtures. Arsenal and Liverpool have also kept 3 clean sheets. City, Liverpool and Spurs are the 3 teams with an expected goals conceded (xGC) of less than 1 per game.

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At present, looking at a combination of goals scored (GS), expected goals (xG) and big chances created (BCC) the least threatening teams at present are Burnley, Wolves, Norwich, Newcastle Brighton and Brentford.

Looking at the next 6 fixtures, Everton have fixtures against these teams in 5 of the next 6 gameweeks. Manchester United have fixtures against them in 4 of the next 6 gameweeks and Arsenal have 3 fixtures against these sides.

The third factor we need to consider when looking at our defensive options is the threat going forward. We want defenders that are looking like scoring goals, assisting others or at least having good numbers for xG and or expected assists (xA).

Combining the above 3 factors produces this data:

So, my suggestions for best defensive options right now are:

  • Kieran Tierney (£4.8m)
  • Trent Alexander-Arnold (£8.3m)
  • Joao Cancelo (£6.8m)
  • Ben Davies (£4.5m)
  • Romain Saiss (£5.0m)
Best current midfield options

Unlike defenders, we are not going to concern ourselves with clean sheets when considering midfielders. Whilst the point they receive for the clean sheet is a nice bonus, it’s not the primary source of their points. We want to be selecting the midfielders most likely to get the goals, assists and bonus points to rack up a hefty haul.

In order to do this, we ideally need to target players in teams creating plenty of chances who come up against weak defences in the coming weeks. When looking at goals conceded, expected goals conceded and big chances conceded the weakest defences at present are Leeds, Newcastle, Southampton, Watford and Everton.

Newcastle face 4 of those teams in the next 6 gameweeks and West Ham 3 but other than that, fixture distribution is fairly even at the moment. Instead, I think we are better looking towards the form players and the ones who seem to register regardless of opposition.

If you’ve come this far on your FPL journey, I am going to assume you own Mo Salah. That said, he isn’t the most in form midfielder at the moment, despite his stellar season. That accolade goes to James Maddison with a staggering 43 points in his last 4 games. He is however dramatically exceeding his expected points (xPts) which suggest that form may not be sustainable.

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Hueng-Min Son is also matching Salah for points per game over their last 4 games and will become a popular replacement for Salah if the African Cup of Nations goes ahead. Along with Raheem Sterling who is now back in favour at Manchester City and has 3 goals in his last 3 starts.

Gabriel Martinelli is another midfielder hitting form for Christmas with 4 goals and 2 assists in his last 6 appearances. We identified earlier that Arsenal have a good run of fixtures coming up so now might be a good time to get the Brazilian in your squad.

The final 2 players I am going to mention are Diogo Jota and Mason Mount. Jota has 5 goals in his last 6 games and Mount 4 goals and 2 assists in the same period. When spreading funds throughout the squad by not having an expensive forward line and by taking advantage of in form budget options like Martinelli we are able to pack the rest of our midfield with great mid-priced options like Jota, Mount and possibly Maddison.

This ensures great strength in dept in your squad and these players are also readily interchangeable with many other good options like Manchester City trio Bernado Silva, Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez or even Raphinha when you feel the time is right.

My pick of the bunch are:

  • Mo Salah (£13.1m), for now!
  • Diogo Jota (£8.1m)
  • Gabriel Martinelli (£5.3m)
  • Mason Mount (£7.7m)
  • Hueng-Min Son (£10.3m)

Best current forward options

As we’ve discussed, with nobody really setting it alight at the moment, we are defunding this area of the squad. It just so happens that the most in form forward is also a great budget option. Emmanuel Dennis with 3 goals and an assist in his last 4 games is a must at £6.0m.

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Whether you can afford Ollie Watkins (£7.9m), Callum Wilson (£7.4m) will depend quite how heavily you have invested elsewhere in your squad but I think each of those offer good value in terms of form coupled with attractive fixtures. Watkins has the form but also the tougher upcoming fixtures. Michail Antonio (£7.8m) also has good fixtures but having tested positive for COVID he’ll miss at least 2 of those.

Assuming you take one of Wilson or Watkins I would be tempted to add Armado Broja to complete the forward line. He’s not been prolific but does have 4 goals from 6 starts this season. He seems to be getting more of a run now having started 3 of the last 4 games and is another at only £5.1m that allows us to have strong point scoring potential right through our squad.

Neal Maupay is the only other player I’d be considering right now but I’m not 100% he is guaranteed his place and both he and Brighton can be terrifically frustrating with their lack of chance conversion.

Best current differentials

We are in a particularly exciting part of the season whereby many of the form players to emerge recently are still differentials. We already mentioned Martinelli, Maddison and Saiss who are all currently under 10% owned, as are the 3 Arsenal defenders discussed earlier.

I think a differential option in each position is a good way to ensure you have around a 70% template squad and if I was choosing right now those players would be:

Defender: Kieran Tierney (£4.8m – 6.3% owned)
Midfielder: Gabriel Martinelli (£5.3m – 3.7% owned)
Forward: Armado Broja (£5.1 – 3.6% owned)

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My Gameweek team reveal

As things stand, I’m relatively happy with my current line-up and will be looking to roll my transfer this week. A lot will depend on if we lose any fixtures between now and then. I think I probably have enough to cope with losing 2 or 3 players although I’m not crazy about Odegaard as I think Smith Rowe should come back into Arsenal’s starting line-up after 2 goals off the bench.

My only consideration would be to potentially bring in Martinelli for Odegaard, however I think with a double gameweek potentially on the horizon and the added uncertainty with COVID postponements at the moment, the extra flexibility 2 transfers allows would have more plus side than a sideways move when I’m already happy with my starting XI.

I wish you all the best for gameweek 19, I hope you have a great Christmas, that your arrows are green and above all else, that you and your loved ones stay safe. See you all again for gameweek 20!!!

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