By Jason McKenna
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It was another pretty frustrating gameweek for the FPL community as a whole, but it does mean there is another weeks worth of data and trends are becoming a bit clearer. Salah was this weeks top scorer with 15 points as he bagged a brace against Arsenal and punished those who had shipped him out after the first 2 matches. Overall the average of 44 points was only slightly better than last weeks 41 which made a disappointing 3rd gameweek for most. But there is one more week left before an international break to mull things over and we will try to give you a guide to help you with your Gameweek 4 decisions!
ASTON VILLA (2) VS (0) EVERTON
It was a game that once again exhibited why Everton are not attacking assets that we want. But the data also shows the result was very lucky for Villa. They managed only 7 shots, 3 shots in the box and 1.05 xG whereas Everton had 7 shots and a similar xG of 1.26, although they managed only 1 shot on target all game. Silva does not seem to yet trust in new signing Moisie Kean up front whereas Calvert Lewin is leading the line but is not producing much. The striker of choice managed 1 shot all game, it was in the box and produced an xG of 0.42 but all season he has managed 2 shots and a total of 0.49 xG, so the majority of his goal threat was in this match. Preseason favourite Siggurdson once again had a quiet match and was even subbed for Alex Iwobi. Overall the story remains the same with Everton, defensively they look good but their forwards do not breed any confidence. Villa got their first win and Grealish finally broke his Premier League hoodoo. McGinn picked up more points this week but Villa were not the better side and should not have won 2-0, it should really have been a draw.
The game also ended Everton’s defensive run but the data for the Toffee’s defence is still good, the problem is their ability to get goals. Digne has shown midweek in the Carabao Cup that he can still be a good option picking up a goal and an assist. Most of the attacks of the side came from the left flank and he had the highest chances created, xChain and the most progressive passer of any Everton player. Aston Villa’s defence is something that can be ignored at the moment though. Everton still have decent games to play, they may need to try something different and should start summer signing Kean over Calvert Lewin as whatever they are doing at the moment is not getting them goals. It seems strange for Marco Silva to be gaining plaudits for defensive shut out and looking poor in attack, in previous years it was the other way round.
NORWICH (2) VS (3) CHELSEA
This was a highly entertaining game for the neutral fan but also a great match for th FPL community as it showed the attacking strengths of both these sides who have affordable assets to capitalise upon. The now highly owned Pukki added to his goal and assist tally which cast away doubts over if he can keep his form going. The question is now, can you afford not to have him at the moment? He has already risen by 0.5 in price and is so popular in the community. What is even more exciting for Pukki owners is that West Ham are the next opponents. Their defence looks unchanged from how poor it was last season as they have had the most chances conceded, the most chances conceded and the highest xCon. Although Norwich travel to West Ham this should be a really good game for those who have invested in Norwich. Another exciting asset, Cantwell, has now scored 1 goal and 2 assists in his last 2 outings. The Norwich side were treated with rightful suspicion at the start of the season but have shown themselves to certainly be a formidable attacking side so far.
Chelsea also showcased good cheap talent as Mount showed us his worth again and Tammy Abraham got a brace. Abraham seems to be the favourite over Giroud as striker and Mount looks incredible value, he is playing a Lampard role for the Blues. With 5 shots this gameweek but joint top for total shots over the 3 gameweeks plus a healthy 7 chances created for teammates Mount is another must have and can be considered a “template” player. Overall this season Chelsea’s story has been more exciting than 2018/19 so far as they seem to be playing for goals, so far they are 3rd for shots in the box, join 2nd for total shots and 2nd for chances created. Abraham may need a little more time to show his quality and prove himself to be worth the investment as a third striker but he showed his abilities in the game against Norwich. He had brilliant hold up play with real physicality to challenge defenders but then was also quick and nimble when he needed to take on defenders as shown in his second goal. If he can keep his form going after the Norwich game then he can potentially score a lot and get assists too.
In terms of the defences of both these sides should be avoided at the moment as Chelsea and Norwich seem set on attack. Clean sheets are not priority, outscoring the opponent is.
BRIGHTON (0) VS (2) SOUTHAMPTON
This was a game I had high hopes for due to Brightons great attacking data from their first 2 games coupled with Southampton’s poor defensive record going back into 2018/19 season. However Andonde got a red card and from then on the game was very difficult for the Seagulls.
On the day Southampton were the rightful victors and the Saints put in a good defensive performance. They limited Brighton to a 0.73xG, but this could have been down to the Seagulls losing a man early on. What I found most fascinating in this game was Hassenhuttle played a different style to what we have seen from him previously. After the sending off the Saints were happy to play a low block and absorb pressure, relying on quick counters to get their goals. This could mean in future gameweeks we see a more sturdy defence from Southampton, but as mentioned it is a new approach and may have just been deployed in that one match situation.
Once again Maupay was getting into the right areas with 4 shots in the box and he was a starter but he managed only 0.34xG, it was a frustrating watch as his owner. The story seems to be now to look away from Brighton assets, they had a favourable start to the season but their next 6 fixtures are amongst the worst in the league and The Potter Wheel of Rotation means it is unclear who is going to start. His choices seem unclear as Murray and Gross were dropped, even though the German midfielder arguably had one of his best games for Brighton in a long time in Gameweek 2. Later in the season the Seagulls may be a better team to invest in when selections become more clear as they are playing much more attacking football and their players are well priced, but there is danger in owning their assets at the moment.
MANCHESTER UNITED (1) VS (2) CRYSTAL PALACE
This was a historic win for Crystal Palace against Manchester United, on the balance of data this match should have been a draw but the heroics of CPFC meant that Manchester United were stifled.
A huge talking point centres around Manchester United and spot kicks. Once again the Red Devils earned themselves a penalty and once again it was missed. Manager Solskjaer confirmed that Rashford and Pogba are the clubs two penalty takers but the confidence in them both to take spot kicks must be lacking a bit now as they have both missed costing their team two games. The non-pen xG shows the game was more in Manchester Untied’s favour as Crystal Palace had an xG of 1.08 and Manchester United had an xG of 1.74 when penalties were factored out. United’s problem seemed to be accuracy though, 14 shots in the box but only 3 shots on target all match. This seems to be a recurring theme too. Although the side have had quite a healthy amount of shots in the box they have managed just 10 shots on target in all their games so far, which is in the bottom half of the Premier League and their non-penalty xG is 14th best in the league. The attacking play may also be further hindered as Martial has been confirmed as injured for the clash against Southampton.
Manchester United also struggled with their forward progression of the ball, most of the passing was done between Lindelof and Maguire but hardly any play towards their attacking players. It is also one game but the side have lost at home again and questions must be asked if 2 summer signings were enough to rectify all that was wrong last season. Crystal Palace offered very little when attacking, their main threat was from counter attacks but they still got two goals at Old Trafford. All match they managed 5 shots, all of which were in the box, but it was the lowest tally of these two data sets for the weekend.
Crystal Palace in this game showed that they can cause teams problems like they have done in previous seasons. They continued their tremendous record away from home in 2019 but it is unclear if the FPL community should consider any of their assets. Since February 2nd Crystal Palace, in almost half a seasons worth of games, having had 9 wins, 3 draws and 5 losses to give them 30 points. The only teams better than them are City and Liverpool. But in attack and defence the options are limited. Ayew is under no serious consideration and neither is Benteke, Zaha is probably their only viable asset in the frontline but even he has been quiet after a strong finish to the 2018/19 season. In their backline Patrick Van Aanholt reminded us once again that he can get involved in attacks but realistically it is clean sheets we need to focus on as he has never scored more than 6 in a season. The 12 clean sheets from Palace’s defence last season was impressive but the budget defender slot seems to be more sensibly swayed towards Soyuncu or Lundstram and it remains to be seen how big of a loss Wan Bissaka is to the side.
SHEFFIELD UNITED (1) VS (2) LEICESTER
A surprising result as Lecister did not dominate their opponents in this match. They had a low xG once again with 0.77 expected goals. Overall the attacking data shows that this game should have been a draw, and probably a goalless one at that.
Vardy scored his first goal of the season but the whole performance felt quite lucky for the Foxes to get the victory. 1 goal in 4 games for a player priced as highly as Vardy in a lethargic looking Leicester is a worry. The actual goals came about as Basham made a mistake that lead to Vardy scoring whereas Barnes had to score a screamer to win the match. These are not sustainable sources of output. There is not much to draw from this game that hasn’t already been said in our previous discussions about the Foxes. Leicester are lacking going forward mainly due to a strange formation where players are being shoe-horned in out of position but it may be in the pursuit of shoring up the back. Madisson, even though he is being deployed on the left rather than in the centre, is producing chances for teammates and is the only player looking good in the sides attack. But more needs to be done by Leicester with wildcards ready to be used in the coming weeks by managers and after the international break the discussions about their attacking abilities will only intensify if more positives are not seen. The positive impact of Barnes and what he brought to the game when he came on may force Rodgers into a tactical rethink, which could really benefit the side but until this happens Madisson is the only Leicester attacker worth investing in.
Sheffield United have proven themselves to be a side that will cause teams problems and create high quality attacking chances too. I also enjoyed Wilders attitude in his post match interview. He was not happy with his players and was not going to sugar coat it. He obviously believes the players can produce much better than they did in the game and it is refreshing to see a promoted manager not settling for just draws or shutouts against bigger sides. This commitment to good football means that even though Lundstram scored 0 he is still a fantastic asset. Once again he had a good game in terms of attacking, annoyingly for those who played him he had a brilliant shot saved by Schmichael but overall he is a person to keep in your side who you can rotate in and out for the good games the Blades have. The potential for goals, assists and clean sheets are still there.
WATFORD (1) VS (3) WEST HAM UNITED
Two of the worst defences in the league played each other in this game and the side with the better attack prevailed. Sebastian Haller seems to be on the lips of many in the FPL community after 1 good performance, but it seems that Watford are the Huddersfield of this season so I would not be too excited as of yet.
West Ham had 14 chances and 5 of them were big against Watford. Lanzini was once again a pivotal figure in his sides success. But over the course of the season the Hammers have put in pretty poor chances created data with their data being around 15th in the Premier League so far. The majority of West Ham’s xG came in this game where they had 3.76xG, which was the highest of the gameweek whereas over the course of the season they have produced just 5.67xG. It not very convincing and I would warn people to not flock to the Hammers just yet. It seems to be one good performance against one of the poorest sides in the league. More good data needs to be accumulated especially to bring in Haller who has a high price compared to other low priced, in form forwards. Barnes has much better data and Pukki’s output seems more sustainable as the team are creating so many chances. West Ham are ones to watch for sure, the quality is there in their strike force but it is whether the team can supply them. Their midfield may struggle to supply chances if the defence continues to be so poor. The side cannot attack if they do not have the ball and are working preventing goals all the time.
Watford finally got a goal and from the data it seems the Hornets have been unfortunate. The fact that the side didn’t recruit a better striker in the summer may come back to haunt them as the side have created a decent amount of chances, have had a fairly good output in terms of shots in the box and their xG is above 4 for the 3 matches they have played. This is a problem carried over from last season that they are not clinical enough. Talisman Deeney, who is also possibly their best striker, is now ruled out for a while after a knee operation. At the moment it is difficult to see where Watford will pick up points into GW11 as they have an incredibly difficult run of fixtures.
Both these teams have defences to avoid and West Ham need more time to see if their attack is worth investing in, but the potential is definitely there with the Hammers.
LIVERPOOL (3) VS (1) ARSENAL
The result of this gameweek seems to have been set in stone even before kick off. The tactics Emery deployed were baffling and allowed Liverpool the space on the wings that they love to play in. Salah looked back to himself and punished the doubters who made him the most transferred out player of the season so far. He had 4 shots in the box a 1.56xG and was the inform player this weekend whereas Mane had a very quiet game as did Firmino. But, as discussed in the podcast, any of the Liverpool trio can turn up one gameweek and the fact that many players looked to make the sideways move to get Mane in for Salah seems like a wasted transfer. Both are excellent forwards and will score a lot of points this season so stick with your decision as transfers are such a finite commodity but the Liverpool players are certain to get good point hauls through the season.
In the match Liverpool dominated from start to finish. As mentioned the strange diamond formation of Arsenal played into Liverpool’s hands as it allowed them to play the style they love freely and unchallenged. In the game the Reds had 25 shots, 17 in the box, there was no chance for the Gunners. Torreira managed to get a consolation goal that annoyed most in the community, it removed a clean sheet and a nice haul for those with Liverpool defensive options but also the goal was meaningless.
Arsenal once again lacked quality at the back and had little creativity in the midfield. The team tried to play a low block and then break on the counter but when they did the numbers were limited in those joining the attacks. It was hard to watch as an Arsenal fan as the side had gone into the fixture with such a negative mindset and play style, instead of trying to dictate the game Liverpool were allowed to control what went on. On the rare chances the Gunners did have on their breakthroughs Pepe just didn’t have the quality to put away the chances he had created. Even in other gameweeks the Arsenal side could struggle, the data is not convincing and the overpefromances of last season may catch up soon if shot volume and chance creation does not increase. The Arsenal side was just above Crystal Palace with the second lowest chances created for the weekend with 5 and the Gunners continued their poor record against the top 6. It seems to be a total avoid on their assets for the time being.
BOURNEMOUTH (1) VS (3) MANCHESTER CITY
Bournemotuh set themselves up well to try and nullify the attack of Manchester City but the Sky Blues managed to breaththrough. The style of Bournemouth’s defence meant there was little space for Sterling to make his runs, but he still managed to pick up a goal in the game and Aguero bagged a brace.
For a team setup to absorb the Manchester city attack Bournemouth did well to threaten the travelling Champions. The Cherries actually had an impressive 10 shots, 8 in the box and had 2.19 xG. The goal they scored was from a fantastic Harry Wilson freekick, maybe furthering his FPL appeal, but after the last couple of gameweeks this was an encouraging sign to see as they have looked bad previously. It is one game though and the Bournemouth team will have to show significant improvements to entice the community to invest in them once again. Fraser and Wilson were pretty anonymous, only Harry Wilson seems to be the player that could be worth the investment in the side. But more evidence is needed to see what trend Bournemouth are on as they are so streaky, when they are hot they are a must own but when they are not on form they are just a waste of money. The inconsistency is a big annoyance to former and current asset owners.
This was not an easy game for Manchester City as Bournemouth did put in a good performance and tried to block them out. But the magic of Silva and De Bruyne creating in the midfield meat that they were victors once again. Indeed Sterling may have a better week against a Brighton side who have played more attacking football this season and have not been as defensively minded. But Potter is known to be pragmatic in his approach, he too may choose to go with 5 at the back to avoid embarrassment at the Etihad. On the podcast we discussed that Zinchenko looked good and attacking in this game, he could have had an assist if De Bruyne had scored rather than scuffing it to assist Aguero. But my main concern was that Joao Cancelo made his first appearance and came on for Kyle Walker. In this game he came on at Right Back but Pep confirmed that he can be played in the left back position too. We all know the wheel of rotation can impact any player, post-international break Mendy may also be fit and vying for a place so I fear that it may be time to depart the Zinchenko train at Gameweek 4. However Seb voiced his belief that the performances of Manchester City’s favoured left back solidifies his belief in owning him. It is a warning I give but Seb may be right that Pep will reward the good efforts of Zinchenko in the coming weeks.
TOTTENHAM (0) VS (1) NEWCASTLE
The question posed on the podcast was about if “Tottenham are in turmoil?”. It seems to be a big yes at the moment. Going into the season and in the first couple of gameweeks we had discussed how the team, along with many of the top 4 last year, didn’t look great. The poor form has continued into 2019/20 season for Tottenham. They now have a win draw and loss this season, but the cause of concern comes from the poor play style and the continued lack of form from last season. Tottenham now have 15 points from their last 15 PL games, no away win since January and won 4 out of their last 15 in the PL. A team previously hard to break down at the back are making mistakes and they are really lacking in their creativity up front. At the weekend Toby Alderweild was the main instigator of plays for the team. Looking at the passing maps and data everything seemed to go through him. Winks, KWP and Sissoko seemed to pass to Alderweild for much of the match even though he is a centre back and not a creative midfielder.
I would say Tottenham were highly unlucky to not get the penalty for the foul on Kane. But the side did not help themselves in the rest of the match. The chances created were not of a high quality and this is why the side , even with nearly 80% of the possession, only produced an xG of 1.17. There are serious problems there at the moment, Kane is one of those players that can score from half chances but even he cannot produce if he is not receiving the ball. We shall see what happens with Eriksen as it seems to be a big problem clouding all that is going on at the club but Lo Celso doesn’t seem to be able to step into the shoes of the world class Danish midfielder yet. Alli returning from injury will be a boost but again he is more of a second striker/ highly attacking midfielder. He makes runs into the box, he does not feed them to others. If they can secure Eriksens future then I believe it will boost the output of the attacking players but at the moment defensively and in attack Tottenham seem a team to avoid.
This was a great win for Newcastle, their first top 6 win since returning to the Premier League. But Bruce seemed to have done his homework. Tottenham struggle against teams who sit back, absorb pressure and play a low block. The performance does not justify bringing in any players at the moment but it will certainly have changed the narrative inside the club for a little while as this was a totally unexpected win that Bruce will take credit for.The Magpies are still amongst the favourites to go down but this will be a boost.
WOLVES (1) VS (1) BURNLEY
Burnley put out a great defensive performance and Barnes did his job at the other end. It seems that The Clarets are setting into a nice rhythm and are back to being reliable in their output. The clean sheet was so frustratingly snatched away from Burnley defensive asset owners really late into the match from a Jiminez penalty. But through the match the low block played out perfectly for Burnley. The Clarets are mid table for xCon with a 3.59 xG from their first 3 matches and have limited their opponents to just 3 big chances in these games too. Barnes looks phenomenal and is only behind Mane and Aguero for goals in 2019. Initially there were doubts if he could continue the form going into the new season but his data has been fantastic so far. 10 shots in the box, 8 shots on target and 4 goals indicate that for the time being Barnes’s output is definitely sustainable.
The story seems to be the complete opposite for Wolves. So far this season they have been woeful going forward, although they have managed to remain pretty tight at the back but the problem of conceding almost every match has continued. The Wolves side are posting similar data to Burnley but in attack they are bottom for non-penalty xG, 17th for shots in the box and 19th for shots on target. The side have certainly regressed in their attacking data. They did not over perform last season so this could be down to the Europa League effect. At the moment, a similar story to Bournemouth is emerging that managers should reduce their investments in Wolves players and put their money in better players.