FPL Fixtures Analysis Gameweek 18
Welcome to FPL Fixtures Analysis Gameweek 18. Just so you know, I’m writing this article for the GW18 fixtures prior to the last game from GW17 – the Liverpool Derby. And for that, I am grateful. Right now I’m nervous, but I’m not yet emotional. I can still think about stats and probabilities in a rational manner. Had I waited until after the Everton game, win or lose, I would have been a manic wreck. So you’re getting the ‘best’ of me here, whatever that is worth.
It’s been an interesting weekend in FPL, and I’m glad that I just get to break down the fixtures and leave some of the bolder recommendations to others. With Diego Costa getting his last elusive yellow card, Kane blanking, and Arsenal continuing to concede goals…there will be a lot of hard decisions this week for managers. And it seems like the worst weekend for turmoil in your squad with the beginning of the League Cup (which you hopefully qualified for). It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve done a proper fixtures article also, so let’s see if I still remember how this is all done.
The Tracker in full…
Top 3 Best Bets
#1) Arsenal – WBA (H), CRY (H), BOU (A)
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[/three_fifth]Seriously now, just look at the run of fixtures that Arsenal are about to get. I said last week that Arsenal really had to just get past Man City and they’d be home free with the best schedule in the league. Well, they failed the Man City test, but their prize remains the same. I know that I make a habit of just focusing in on the next 3 opponents for each team that I mention, but if you scroll over a bit, it’s easy to see that Arsenal should have 15-18 points coming their way if they play to the level we know they can. Now will they stumble a bit at some point? Everton proved they aren’t infallible (*humble brag*). But in all honesty, now that they’ve played two tough matches on the road, they should completely dominate this schedule.
The problem for Arsenal, at least in an FPL sense, is that you can’t trust their defence for points. We know about their offensive prowess, and there’s no denying that on their day, they can hang 3 or 4 goals on a team with ease. But defensively? They’re not bad, they’re just consistently mediocre – again, from an FPL point of view. It’s now been 8 straight games that Arsenal have failed to keep a clean sheet, and these last two games against City and Everton were the first of those 8 games that saw them concede multiple goals. So what do you do with a team that otherwise is nearly guaranteed to concede a single goal week in and week out? It’s not like conceding a single goal takes points away from your team, but there isn’t a major boost in points for them either.
It’s a tough call, but against a schedule this sweet, I think a person does need to consider getting multiple Arsenal players in their squad, from any position – even a defender if that’s how it shakes out. There will be points aplenty for Arsenal owners here in coming weeks, and I’m not sure if owning simply a single midfielder is going to be the best use of your squad.
#2) Man United – SUN (H), MID (H), WHU (A)
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[/three_fifth]I know, right? Even I can’t fully believe that I’m putting Manchester United here in the second spot, but they deserve it with the form they’re in. But take everything I say about Man United here with a grain of salt, because Jose Mourinho is still the boss, and he can still mess this whole thing up at a moment’s notice. And look, I get it, there are probably people on this site right now that are huge Mourinho fans. They think he’s the mad genius. Or the football prophet. The Chosen One. Whatever.
Those same people probably order decaf on purpose and dip their fries in mustard – not ketchup. Some people are just a little off.
But getting back to the topic at hand, Manchester United are building some momentum, and it feels like they’re building it in the right way. Their last three wins have been efficient, not flashy. Their scorelines may not appear to be dominant, but they’re the kind of scorelines that are repeatable. And that’s something people often times lose sight of. Only once have United played a game in which they scored 4 goals this year, and twice have they scored 3. But look at their most recent performances: wins of 2-0, 2-1 and 1-0. Those scores don’t leap off the page at you, but they’re of a mould that can be duplicated into the future if the team and manager stay their current course. Again, Mourinho…who knows what he’s likely to do going forward. Maybe he simply abhors 2-1 scorelines and will feel the need to shake things up again.
United have 24 goals on the year, which is a far shout from the 40 goals that Liverpool have amassed (again, pre Derby). But United are making their level of scoring work in their favour by sneakily becoming the 4th best defence in the league with 17GA. Looking to the opponents that United will be facing coming up, I wouldn’t worry too much about Sunderland and Middlesbrough. Sure, both of those teams were winners this past week, but Middlesbrough got to play Swansea, and Sunderland snuck in a win against Watford. Those wins won’t translate into momentum when it comes to playing a team like an in-form United.
Until Mourinho happens. Ok. I’ve said enough about that.
#3) Chelsea – BOU (H), STK (H), TOT (A)
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[/three_fifth]Chelsea are on an 11-game win streak right now, so they’re going to be on this list one way or another. They’ve beaten big teams, little teams and everyone in between. Over that streak, Chelsea have 9 clean sheets, have scored 25 goals and only allowed 2. It’s kind of ridiculous when you put it out there and look of the nuts and bolts of the run they’re on.
So why do I put them third here on the list? Mathematically speaking, the longer a streak goes, the higher the likelihood that it eventually comes to an end. This isn’t an unbeaten streak we’re talking about here, it’s a winning streak – and those are much harder to maintain. Plus, Diego Costa will be out of the line-up for the first time in a long time. I see the Costa benching as a positive for the club though. The Bournemouth game should be just fine without him, but it gives him a bit of rest going into another congested schedule. Lastly, I put Chelsea 3rd on the list because their last 3 wins have all been 1-0 victories. There are a number of reasons why those scores happened, but the slim margins of victory have to be noted. Early in the streak they had a 4-0 win over United, and a 5-0 win over Everton. Could be they’re running out of gas just a bit and have had to naturally slow the pace down to maintain the good run they’ve had.
Looking at their upcoming fixtures though, this team could conceivably extend this winning streak out another 3 games – even if they do need to employ their patented 1-0 scoreline method. Bournemouth are a funny little club, they win when you think they shouldn’t and they fold up in spots that you’d expect them to have a chance. They’re like Everton Lite in some ways. Still, against the best club on the board, I don’t put much stock into Bournemouth pulling off a miracle win like they did earlier against Liverpool. Stoke are a mess. I’m not quite sure how they managed to lose a game like they did this last weekend. Now you’re probably thinking that they drew against Leicester, and you’re technically right. But when you’re up big against a 10-man squad and concede like they did? It’s a loss. Finally, Tottenham will be a bit of a challenge, but I’m banking on the fresher Costa to put in a bigger performance than Kane – but I could see a draw in that game.
3 Teams to Avoid
#1) Stoke – LIV (A), CHE (A), WAT (H)
The optimists of the world will see that Watford home game as a silver lining to a tough run. But let’s be honest, if Stoke couldn’t put away Leicester this past weekend, all bets are off as it pertains to them being able to easily dust off Watford. And let’s not forget, they still have to travel to Liverpool and then Chelsea first? Fuhgeddaboutit. Stoke are the worst team to own going into the final stretch of 2016.
#2) Bournemouth – CHE (A), SWA (A), ARS (H)
Like I was saying above, Bournemouth are that sneaky sort that could manage to pull off 6 points from this run, or they could end up with 1 point. You just don’t know about them. Swansea are supposedly a ‘gimme’ game, but the Swans are rapidly approaching that mode of being a dog backed into a corner. At some point they’re going to jump out and start biting to try to get out of the predicament they’re in. Whether that happens here against Bournemouth or not is a real question, but it pales in comparison to the games that have to be played against Chelsea and Arsenal.
#3) Sunderland – MUN (A), BUR (A), LIV (H)
Sunderland, to give them a bit of credit, have the ability to scrap out a win against similar competition. But against bigger clubs? Not so much. Yeah they got a shutout win this past week against Watford, but look at the last couple of games they’ve played against bigger teams. They’ve been shutout by both Chelsea and Liverpool over their last five games – and they also somehow managed to lose 3-0 against Swansea. The little moral victories like they just had are nice and all, but this club isn’t going far against the likes of United and Liverpool for a second time.
One Week Punt
West Ham – SWA (A)
I need an intervention. Here I am recommending West Ham in some capacity again, and it never works out for me. But maybe the third time’s the charm? Look, all I’m doing is just going by the results and the stats I have at hand. And West Ham are on a 2-game winning streak and are going up against one of the worst teams in the league in Swansea. Can that really be a bad thing? West Ham have had back to back 1-0 victories against Hull and Burnley – admittedly not great competition. But are Swansea really any better? All I’m saying is that if you were looking to pick up Payet for a week, this might not be the worst time to do it. But I fear I may have already said too much about West Ham, if history holds true, they’ll now probably fold under the genius that is Bob Bradley…