Welcome to the Fantasy Football Scout Guide to Gameweek 14 ahead of today’s 11:00 GMT deadline.
The matches keep coming thick and fast during this traditionally busy fixture period. And Fantasy managers now have to factor in earlier-than-usual Blank and Double Gameweeks.
The Premier League calendar for January has been updated, with five fixtures confirmed for Gameweek 18 and a whopping 15 packed into Gameweek 19.
How best to navigate your team through this potentially rewarding sequence was a topic of discussion on Thursday’s Scoutcast and the subject of two Pro Pundit articles. Although, as Lateriser pointed out, don’t forget about the present:
More often than not, while we are focused on getting good players who play two games in the Double Gameweek, we tend to forget teams that have good fixtures right now.
Whatsmore, there’s also the small possibility that there could be further changes before then:
Keep an eye on the results of the Brentford v Newcastle and Arsenal v Manchester City ties in the EFL Cup next week, as a defeat for either of those two away sides could – and we stress, could – increase the possibility of a Double Gameweek 17 for Villa, as a free midweek would emerge in early January.
– Neale, Scout Notes
Before delving into the blanks and doubles, let’s focus on the here and now.
Having successfully singled out Marcus Rashford (£9.4m) as someone likely to benefit from Sheffield United’s soft centre in last week’s Captain Sensible article, Jan Sienkiewicz has identified a similar weakness in the Leeds United backline:
Leeds … have conceded 31 chances from the centre of the park in their away games so far this season. Only Newcastle have fared worse in that department (33).
Could Rashford and Anthony Martial (£8.7m) be set to prosper for a second successive match?
However Jan’s top pick for the captaincy is the ever-reliable Mohamed Salah (£12.4m). Liverpool travel to Selhurst Park where a weakness on Crystal Palace’s left flank could afford the Egyptian the chance to add to his five away goals this season.
It is, of course, Patrick van Aanholt who staffs this area for Hodgson’s side, a player who is often caught out of position as a result of his runs forward. While he has only appeared in three of Palace’s Selhurst Park matches this season, the Eagles are still third-worst for chances conceded on the left over their last four at home as well as last six.
– Jan, opportunity for Salah
Elsewhere Harry Kane’s (£10.9m) excellent record against Leicester City makes him an enticing option. In his 10 Premier League appearances against the Foxes, Kane has scored 14 and assisted two. He even scored and assisted against Leicester in the Championship when on loan at Millwall nine years ago.
It’s hardly news to tell you that Pro Pundit Sam will once again be handing her favourite fox-hunter the armband.
But while the stats shine favourably upon Kane’s chances this weekend, Tottenham Hotspur’s attack has not fared well when looked at in terms of underlying numbers. The point was highlighted on the Scoutcast by Ted from Ted Talks FPL.
Breaking down goal attempts into Big Chances and Small Chances (a small chance being any attempt that wasn’t deemed a big chance by Opta) helps to build a picture of each team’s attack.
This also adds to our knowledge when looking at expected goals (xG), given that a big chance in open play is worth around 0.4 xG and a penalty is 0.76 xG.
(click on graphic to enlarge)
Using data from the last six Gameweeks reveals what we know from watching Spurs play – that they don’t take many shots but do fashion good goalscoring opportunities with the few chances they get.
As David Wardale noted, Son Heung-min (£9.6m) has been particularly efficient in front of goal:
Son’s clinical touch is outstanding – his 60.9% shot accuracy and 47.8% conversion rate are way ahead of any other midfielder who doesn’t take his team’s spot-kicks.
At the opposite end of the scale, Leeds United play a dramatically different brand of football. Peppering their opponents’ goal with a large number of shots but a lower proportion of gilt-edge opportunities.
With five different players on the scoresheet against Newcastle United, Marcelo Bielsa’s side offer several cheap attacking options in addition to Patrick Bamford (£6.3m), currently the best value player in FPL returning 12.9 points per million.
The Whites benefit from an attractive schedule; facing Burnley and West Brom in the short term, followed by matches against Brighton and Southampton in Double Gameweek 19.
Arch-chance creators Manchester City unsurprisingly standout in Ted’s graphic. But their reliance on Kevin De Bruyne (£11.9m) was in evidence once more against the Baggies, the Belgian topped the charts for both shots and key passes.
The good news for his owners is that he is unlikely to be rotated any time soon:
And, according to David, City’s upcoming opponents should prove less frustrating than West Brom:
Will the Citizens meet such a stubborn wall of resistance in every game this season? Absolutely not, especially not when three of their next four matches are on the road (Southampton, Everton and Chelsea).
But with City proving profligate in front of goal, Az is wondering if De Bruyne offers value for money:
[Nearly] 12 million for a midfielder who is so reliant on assists for a team who isn’t performing well [is a lot].
Thick Blue Line
One of the teams Pep Guardiola’s men face on their upcoming road trips is Everton.
And the Toffee’s defence has improved since manager Carlo Ancelotti (pictured above) decided to start two centre-halves in the full-back positions. Mason Holgate (£4.8m) and Ben Godfrey (£5.0m) coming in for the injured Lucas Digne (£6.1m) and Seamus Coleman (£4.8m).
The last two matches have seen Everton’s figure for shots conceded in the box fall by almost half – against Chelsea and Leicester, no less. Big chances conceded per game has dropped from 2.3 to 1.0 while the extra hassling (shown, in part, by a bump in clearances, blocks and interceptions) has led to a significant drop in shots on target conceded per game too (4.6 to 2.5).
– David, Scout Notes
Michael Keane (£5.1m) is one of Pro Pundit Tom Freeman’s three differentials this week. Tom says:
Keane is the only player to have started all 16 games in the league and EFL Cup for Everton this season, and has been consistently good in recent weeks. Against Leicester, he made more blocks and clearances than any colleague, and won all of his aerial duels. His threat from set-pieces is also worth noting ahead of their next two fixtures.
But for another team in blue, Chelsea, their previously reliable defence is suddenly not quite so rock solid.
Chelsea’s abrupt end to their reign of clean sheets has tracked alongside their underlying statistics. In their last two matches, they have given up considerably more shots per game, almost double the number of shots conceded in the box and big chances.
– David, Scout Notes
Potentially good news for West Ham on Monday night.
While elsewhere, Colm Hayes senses an opportunity for Fulham given how easily Newcastle were exposed against Leeds:
The Magpies … managed to concede two goals in counter-attacks while searching for equalisers at dead-ball situations. Knowing they are weak to such a scenario could boost interest in Ademola Lookman or Ivan Cavaleiro for Gameweek 14, considering Fulham have been making progress in transitional phases of matches over the last few weeks.
Pope Maximus Bonus
It did not escape Neale’s attention that Nick Pope (£5.4m), last season’s leading FPL custodian, has returned to the top of the goalkeeper standings – despite playing two games fewer than many of his peers.
In addition to making an impressive 12 saves against Arsenal and Aston Villa, Pope claimed the maximum three bonus points on each occasion. Neale explained what the Burnley shot-stopper does that the Bonus Points System (BPS) likes so much:
Pope has now racked up a remarkable 14 bonus points this season, more than any other goalkeeper. He was top among players in his position for that stat last season, too. It’s not just the combination of stops (he has ten save points in his last eight outings) and ‘recoveries’ (things like collecting crosses) that boosts his appeal on the Bonus Points System, but Burnley’s lack of goal threat at the other end.
Sean Dyche’s men enjoy a favourable fixture run followed by a double Gameweek after their blank in Gameweek 18. And Nick Pope isn’t the only option among the Burnley rearguard, as Neale and Tom both pointed out in separate articles:
“Should the Burnley goalkeeper prove to be too pricey at £5.4m, then there is always good old Charlie Taylor: the Burnley left-back has more FPL points to his name than any player under £4.5m this season.” – Neale, Scout Notes
“The real appeal lies in Burnley’s clean sheet potential, and with home games against Wolves, Sheffield United and Fulham in the next four, further shut outs could be on the way.” – Tom, Differentials
At the Double
Planning for the Blank and Double Gameweeks is likely to dominate our thoughts for the immediate future. Although the best strategy, as many of our pundits and contributors have been at pains to point out, is going to vary depending on how your team is set up and the number of chips you have available.
Lateriser feels excited at having a big Double Gameweek so early in the season, and thinks this will reduce the likelihood of players being rotated:
In recent years, the biggest Double of the campaign has come when a lot more places in the Premier League table were secure, reducing the importance of each game.
But, as mentioned earlier, it’s important that “we don’t succumb to tunnel vision” and, instead, pay attention to the matches surrounding the Blank and Double. With that in mind, Liverpool players are top of the shopping list – if we can get around their blank fixture in Gameweek 18:
It looks like a good time to invest in key Liverpool assets if you are planning to Free Hit in Blank Gameweek 18 and build a team for Double Gameweek 19 without a Wildcard.
Free Hit and Bench Boost have been the two most-talked about chips so far, with many planning to deploy them in consecutive Gameweeks for maximum impact.
But Pro Pundit Zophar is not yet convinced about using his Free Hit on Blank Gameweek 18:
Conventionally, Fantasy managers deploy Free Hit chips in the blankest of the Blank Gameweeks each season but it looks as if we’re set to get two of those in 2020/21 … And, I must say that, at first glance, the fixtures for a Free Hit in Gameweek 18 are not very appealing.
Alternatively, the six-time top 5,000 manager feels it could be better to save the Free Hit for Gameweek 29, when the FA Cup quarter-finals will result in several Premier League teams going without a fixture.
Opinion is also divided on the best use of the Bench Boost chip.
On the Scoutcast, Sam said she felt the Bench Boost could be more productive when used later in the season. Our team value will have increased, she reasoned, and we will therefore have more cash.
But Ted countered that using the Bench Boost early is a viable plan as there are teams with cheap players available such as West Ham, Leeds and Southampton.
Going back on his earlier reluctance to use the Free Hit in Gameweek 18, Zophar thinks the chip will help to get the most out of a Bench Boost in Gameweek 19:
However, this strategy [Bench Boost in Gameweek 19] would probably only be effective if you’re Free Hitting in Blank Gameweek 18 as, if you can field seven to eight players without that chip [in Gameweek 18], you will probably not have too many Double Gameweekers the following week.
For those interested in the Head-to-Head Leagues, the main page can be linked to here. The fixtures for Gameweek 14 can be found below:
Use the drop-down menus to show your league and division. To find out which league and division you are in, follow the instructions on the main Head-to-Head page.
Once the Gameweek starts, if you click on your opponent’s name you will be linked to their team on the FPL website.
May your arrows be green!
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