With only 8 teams in Premier League action this weekend FPL managers are looking for the chance to make ground as very few of their rivals are likely to be fielding full XIs.
As outlined in an earlier article (https://jumpersforgoalposts.info/fpl-tiers-for-souvenirs/), I like to clarify my FPL decision making by looking at key metrics such as attempts on goal and big chances as well as the obvious goals and clean sheets over the most recent four matches to give myself a general idea of which teams are currently showing good or poor form at either end of the pitch. (The Members Area of Fantasy Football Scout is my preferred location for this while ffstuff.co.uk is great for Gameweek by Gameweek player data)
Grouping the teams into the best (A) to the worst (F) performers I arrive at the following tables. Teams with a Gamweek 30 fixture are indicated by a gold-coloured block before the team name:
With so many teams not playing, it makes sense to remove all of those from the tables. Adding the group of each team’s Gameweek 30 opponents leads to the following tables:
Doing a bit of behind-the-scenes maths as explained in that earlier article leads to a table indicating the comparative likelihood that any given Gameweek 30 team will keep a clean sheet or score at least one goal:
On form alone, there’s a clear ranking here for the top five teams of the week. Let’s delve a little deeper into that as we examine each of the Gameweek 30 fixtures in more detail.
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS (DEF B, ATT D) v LEEDS UNITED (DEF E, ATT E)Embed from Getty Images
If it weren’t for a couple of successful long shots Wolves would have the same sort of recent attacking threat as Norwich City, but Leeds are currently exactly the sort of team you could expect to concede a hit-and-hoper from thirty yards, much as they did at home to Wolves last season.
Since the visitors’ promotion the three league fixtures between these two sides have resulted in two 1-0 wins for Wolves and a 1-1 draw earlier this season. The table above is simply trying to say that Wolves are the most likely of this week’s eight teams to score AT ALL (as they have always done in recent games against Leeds), but history and their own general form suggest more than one goal is quite unlikely, even against this struggling defence.
One thing you can’t fault Leeds for is actual shots on goal. Over the last four matches their statistics for attempts are right up there with Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. The stark differences emerge when you glance across at the success rate of those attempts. Only about one in four was on target and only two resulted in a goal, both against Norwich last weekend. Spurs managed 13 goals from their goalbound efforts, but if the presence of Patrick Bamford (£7.7m) is able to galvanise his fellow attackers Leeds could easily be matching the Red Devils’ 8 goals, though against a defence as stout as Wolves, and especially away from home, just scoring at all might be the reasonable limit of this week’s ambitions.Embed from Getty Images
In October’s draw at Elland Road Nelson Semedo was a pivotal figure, providing the run and cross for Raul Jiminez (£7.6m) whose blocked shot that fell to a poaching Hee-Chan Hwang (£5.4m) to put his side ahead before failing to resist an injury time nibble on a weaving Joe Gelhardt (£4.6m) that led to Rodrigo’s (£6.2m) equaliser from the spot.
Semedo is unavailable through injury this time around, but Wolves defenders in general are returning about 4.8 FPL points per match and investing in one for this fixture looks promising, especially if there’s a chance they could reap an attacking return. With three goals this season and security of starts captain Conor Coady (£4.9m) looks the best choice. Romain Saiss (£5.1m) has played all of the previous eight fixtures and has scored twice this term but is more expensive. Max Kilman (£4.6m) is also a regular and cheaper but did miss the recent Watford game. On the defensive flanks manager Bruno Lage likes to rotate even when injuries don’t force it. If you can guess correctly which of Rayan Ait Nouri (£4.4m) or Marcal (£4.2m) is going to end up playing you could get a bargain, but the most intriguing option looks to be Jonny (£4.5m). When fit he has been a key defender for Wolves and loves to get involved going forward, creating three chances in the team’s away win at Everton.
Up front Jimenez is always able to get you one attacking return, but virtually never more than that. The much cheaper Hwang almost matches his output, but would need to overcome an injury that saw him replaced early at Goodison Park. Another name to consider is Daniel Podence (£5.5m), a fulcrum of many attacks and scorer of two goals in his last 6.
Leeds are unlikely to concede as many as they have in some recent games, but even then you’d need a lot of faith to choose anyone from their rearguard unless you’re hoping for save points from Illan Meslier (£4.8m). Given the dearth of usable FPL strikers even in full Gameweeks Patrick Bamford has to be worthy of consideration for this match and the immediately following fixtures against Southampton and Watford. New manager Jesse Marsch is using Raphinha (£6.5m) in a more direct role than the touchline-hugging required of him under Marcelo Bielsa, but his many owners are still to see him generate that double-digit haul they’ve been waiting for all season and rumours are emerging that he may even be ill and unavailable.
The Brazilian provided the winner for late substitute Gelhardt against Norwich, but another appearance from the bench seems again to be his most likely involvement if he can overcome a back niggle. Those on a free hit looking to gamble on a differential could do worse than consider Dan James (£6.0m) who continues to be used as an auxiliary striker and is as likely to pounce on a chance in the box or curl one in from the edge of the area as any of his team-mates.
ASTON VILLA (DEF A, ATT B) v ARSENAL (DEF C, ATT C)Embed from Getty Images
Arsenal’s figures are blunted by Wednesday’s shutout at home to bulldozing Liverpool, but even then Villa have scored ten in their last four fixtures while keeping three clean sheets and have shown they are capable of punishing any weariness Arsenal may be feeling after those exertions.
The key to Villa’s recent statistical advantage lies in precision. Over the last four matches Arsenal are in the top 5 for both most attempts on goal and fewest attempts on goal conceded. Villa are behind them on both metrics and especially in attack. However, Villa are second for both most attempts on target and fewest attempts on target conceded behind only Liverpool and Chelsea respectively. Arsenal have been effective, but Villa have been ruthless.
Arsenal have scored three or more goals on six occasions this season and three of those were on the road, but they were against Watford, Norwich and Leeds. Villa have conceded three or more at home four times, so it remains to be seen whether their recent defensive success was more a function of playing some less vibrant attacks or whether it is genuinely here to stay. Arsenal are probably more likely to score than their recent statistics suggest.
Stamping his authority all over Villa’s recent resurgence is Philippe Coutinho (£7.5m). Over a quarter of FPL managers have already taken advantage of his very reasonable price and enjoyed his seven goal involvements in only nine appearances. What has perhaps gone under the radar is that is team-mate Emiliano Buendia (£6.2m) has created as many chances (7) in Villa’s most recent four fixtures as Coutinho despite only playing a third of the minutes. Buendia trails Coutinho one to three in shots per game, but he could be a useful differential for Free Hitters.
Striking partners Ollie Watkins (£7.5m) and Danny Ings (£7.7m) have very similar prices, FPL point totals (85 v 82), goal involvements (9 v 10) and double-digit hauls (1 each). Watkins is slightly more likely to find the net (7 v 5), but it’s the chance creation part of Ings’s game which has recently come to the fore, especially against his former club Southampton where he added a brace of assists to a goal of his own.Embed from Getty Images
In recent games defender Matty Cash (£5.2m) has rivalled his attacking colleagues for goals scored and chances created making him a very attractive pick. If his increased price and ownership put you off then Tyrone Mings (£5.0m) has four assists of his own on the season combined with a set-piece threat and a points per match approaching that of Cash (3.8 v 4.2). The bargain option here is Calum Chambers (£4.2m) who has played all of the last three games including at Leeds where he opened his goalscoring account for his new club.
Arsenal’s best options are well-documented and most competitive FPL teams will already have selected their preferred two or three from among them. If you’ve still got room, Aaron Ramsdale (£5.1m) is the Gameweek 30 goalkeeper with the highest points per match (4.9) though he will be hard-pressed to keep out the home side’s incisive attack. He also leads the points per match figures at his club, those closest to him being raiding full-back Kieran Tierney (£5.1m, 4.8) and attacking midfielder Bukayo Saka (£6.7m, 4.7). That trio all have at least three double-digit hauls each, as do centre-half Gabriel (£5.3m) and the quicksilver Emile Smith Rowe (£5.7m) whose restriction to substitute appearances in his last two outings make him a risky pick.Embed from Getty Images
Midfielders Gabriel Martinelli (£5.3m) and Martin Odegaard (£5.5m) are great to watch but overall this season both have been a bit under-par in terms of returns while Ben White (£4.5m) is a cheaper if unspectacular defensive option. With so few forwards doing anything of note at the moment, Alexandre Lacazette‘s (£8.4m) steady diet of neat touchbacks for onrushing midfielders to crash home are raising him to genuine FPL consideration and he supplements this with the odd penalty. Managers bringing him in, however, might prefer an afternoon searching for red squirrels in the park to watching and waiting for Lacazette’s golden moment of the day.
LEICESTER CITY (DEF C, ATT D) v BRENTFORD (DEF C, ATT C)Embed from Getty Images
Leicester are through in Europe! But at what cost in the league? Brentford arrive buzzing to the King Power Stadium with form currently as good as Arsenal’s and fractionally better than the home side’s thanks to back-to-back wins over troubled Norwich and Burnley that have lifted them largely away from relegation worries. The Foxes, meanwhile, have bumbled through the last few weeks, their ongoing European adventure intertwining with dour wins over Leeds and Burnley and disappointing away defeats at Wolves and Arsenal, while enduring the sting of several ongoing injuries to key players.
No team has scored more than twice in any of Leicester’s last six league games. Brentford haven’t kept a clean sheet away from home since Gameweek 5 at Molineux. The result has “2-1 to whoever gets a late penalty” written all over it.
And assuming there IS a late penalty you will want either Brentford’s Ivan Toney (£6.6m) or Leicester’s Youri Tielemans (£6.4m), or possibly both, in your FPL side as they put the ball on the spot. Toney is basically a penalty-taking machine. He is able to kick the ball in exactly the same way into exactly the same place absolutely nervelessly from a standing start as many times as he wants. The only way a goalkeeper could stop him would be to stand directly in front of that place . At which point Toney would, of course, simply roll the ball with utter precision into the empty opposite corner. It’s like watching Jonnny Wilkinson kick easy conversions, only more inevitable.
Tielemans is a pretty cool customer in a pressure situation, too, and quietly has 6 goals and 4 assists to his name along with three double-digit hauls. Only the unfortunately injured Jamie Vardy and the infuriatingly unpredictable James Maddison (£6.7m) have more for Leicester (both have four), though there is a general underperformance on straightforward returns. No home player available for Sunday’s game scores 5+ FPL Gameweek points at a rate of better than 38% when 50% is the benchmark for the top couple of echelons of FPL assets. Both Maddison and fellow midfielder Harvey Barnes (£6.5m) have managed this eight times in more than twenty appearances, but Barnes only has a pair of double-digit hauls.Embed from Getty Images
If you think Brentford won’t manage to score then goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel (£4.8m) is likely to have significantly contributed to that and could be a safer pick than guessing which defenders will be fit after Thursday’s trip to Rennes. If you do take that plunge Daniel Amartey (£3.9m) is clearly the standout value option.
The search for potential returns amongst the visitors outside of talisman Toney is even more forlorn. If you really want to go there then David Raya (£4.3m) should get a bunch of saves and has a points per match of 4.1 while defenders Kristoffer Ajer (£4.4m) and Pontus Jansson (£4.5m) have been their most reliable assets for a return this season.
However, for both sentimental and potential chance creation reasons, the fairy tale of Christian Eriksen‘s (£5.5m) return to top-flight football is well-worthy of consideration. If anybody can conjure an opportunity out of nothing or suddenly elevate the game with a moment of class amongst a sea of toil, it’s him.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (DEF B, ATT A) v WEST HAM UNITED (DEF C, ATT D)Embed from Getty Images
If you’re wondering whether or not to bring in Harry Kane (£12.4m) then the answer is yes, yes, a thousand times yes unless the transfer trail this would require would be so elaborate as to make cryptocurrency transactions look understandable.
If you’re also thinking that maybe that Dejan Kulusevski (£6.2m) chap is worth a go then yes, come on in, you’re late, but let’s not worry about that now. Still plenty here for everybody so get yourself a plate.
The real question is, which should be your third Tottenham asset (triple Spurs, eh? Crazy times…). Heung-min Son (£10.9m) hasn’t suddenly become awful or obsolete or any such thing, but you do need a lot of cash to justify having him at the same time as the other two when the world is filled with Coutinhos, Sakas and Tielemanses, especially given that the defence is also doing really well while muscling in on the action up top to boot. From almost literally nowhere the last 3 Gameweeks have turned FPL into a feverish den of “Doherty v Reguilon” debate.Embed from Getty Images
Matt Doherty (£4.8) aced the first two rounds, but Sergio Reguilon (£52) it back with a narrow Gameweek 29 victory. Over the last four weeks you literally can’t choose between them on goal attempts or chances created. Basically, they have become the left and right Twix of our beloved fantasy game. Either one with a nice cup of tea and a sit down in front of the telly on Sunday afternoon is likely to be a fun experience, but both together might be just a little too much of a good thing. And if you think chocolate is too extravagant you can go instead with the ready salted crisps of Ben Davies (£4.4m) or the plain tortillas chips of Eric Dier (£4.6m).
Meanwhile, traipsing into New White Hart Lane wearing slightly crumpled sashes emblazoned with “We’re even tireder than Leicester!” come West Ham United. The Hammers have also recently outdone the Foxes for unexciting match outcomes with their last seven league games seeing neither side score more than twice. In five of them neither side scored more than once.
We’d feel an awful lot more excited about West Ham assets in this one if a) Jarrod Bowen wasn’t injured and b) Harry Kane wasn’t currently going for goal as if his life beyond May somehow depended on it. Tell you what, though. Do you know who’s got more double-digit hauls than any other West Ham player this season? No?
Said Benrahma (£5.9m). No, me neither. He has achieved this four times, three of which were admittedly in the season’s heady early days, but he’s just done it again courtesy of assisting both goals in the home win over Aston Villa. If you look down the back of the FPL sofa you may discover you still own him along with 12% of the rest of the game, but if not you could do a lot worse than get him in if you’re on a Free Hit.
And finally, if you’re in the mood to double-down on picks very much rooted in matters beyond football, Andriy Yarmolenko (£5.1m) has now scored twice in two games when his heart must surely be focussed on his homeland and those he knows and loves. We wish him and his countrymen all our very, very best.