FPL Fixtures Analysis Gameweek10 2016-17
Welcome to FPL Fixtures Analysis Gameweek 10 2016-17. I went back and reread my previous week’s Fixtures article this morning. It’s usually something I do with a bit of trepidation, because once those picks are locked in, there’s really no turning back. Once the article is published, I’m either going to be right or wrong on those picks, and I just have to live with the shame if I really messed up. I’m usually OK with a single missed pick – after all, not everything is supposed to turn out 100% correct (if it did, I’d be a millionaire sports bettor right now).
And I have to say, looking at the picks last week, even knowing how those matches played out, I’m not sure I could honestly say that I wouldn’t make the same picks again if I had to do it over. Arsenal drawing nil-nil with Middlesbrough? Man City playing to a 1-1 draw with Southampton? I didn’t see either of those results playing out like that, and based on the moaning on Twitter about poor captain choices, I’m guessing a lot of you didn’t see those games playing out quite like that either. So we’ll just give me a pass for last week’s article. Sound good?
I will say though, I did recommend Stoke for a second consecutive week – and both times they ended up winning 2-0. Should I recommend Stoke again this week and damn Swansea to a 2-0 loss? I just might.
The Tracker in full…
Top 3 Best Bets
#1 Man City – WBA (A), MID (H), CRY (A)
Man City have had themselves a hell of a bad run here this past month. Since beating Swansea in September (3-1), City have had a draw to Celtic, loss to Tottenham, drawn with Everton, a 4-0 loss to Barcelona and a draw with Southampton. Now, I added the Champions League games in there to give a bit of context. The Swansea game that they won was on September 24, so in the past month’s time, they haven’t won a single contest in any league or cup competition.
It’s no leap to think that not being able to win for such a long period will start to weigh on a team – especially a team of Man City’s stature. But maybe we can just say that it was a tough stretch against good teams, and the real bounty is on the way. If you take out the Champions League matches, you have to understand that this team went up against three of the best defences that the Premiership has to offer right now: Tottenham, Everton and Southampton are currently the top 3 clubs in the fewest goals allowed category.
So when you look at it from that lens, perhaps it’s not so dire as we were all thinking. Man City went up against the 3 most stout defences in the league and still came away with 2 points. But this next lot that City are going against? Not even close to the same calibre of competition. Whereas Tottenham, Everton and Southampton combined are allowing just .74 GA per match (20 GA total from the three, divided up over 9 rounds), these next three opponents that City will be facing are allowing a combined 1.2 GA per game. It’s a night and day scenario for Manchester City coming up, and they deserve the top pick this week.
#2) Liverpool – CRY (A), WAT (H), SOU (A)
Liverpool were my only best bet from last week that actually won their match – and with this schedule coming up here, they still deserve a place in this list this week. I will concede that the Southampton match could be a tough affair, playing away in that spot could make it difficult to get goals. But since that match is still three rounds out, it doesn’t carry as much weight quite yet.
The first two rounds of this series are the key rounds to focus on. Crystal Palace are one of just two teams left in the league who have yet to keep a clean sheet (the other being Sunderland, obviously). And with Liverpool being tied for the league lead in goals scored, it looks very unlikely that Crystal Palace will change that around any time soon. Watford are slightly better defensively, but they’re also in the bottom half of the rankings for goals conceded. Watford have just completed back to back clean sheets on the road – but they were against Swansea and Middlesbrough. Liverpool lead the league in shot attempts and shots on target, so saying that keeping a clean sheet against Swansea and Middlesbrough somehow prepares Watford to take on Liverpool would be disingenuous. Liverpool should get an easy 6 points in the next two rounds and will probably put up at least a pair of goals in each.
#3) Stoke – SWA (H), WHU (A), BOU (H)
Two weeks in a row now I’ve given Stoke the nod to continue to turn things around, and they’ve sufficiently repaid my faith with back to back shutout wins. I’m not saying they’re world-beaters or anything yet, but they’re definitely on the right path to get back to the good side of the mediocre line. Is that a thing? I’m calling it a thing.
It’s tough to sort out a season-long, historical view of Stoke – they were just so bad to start the year that using those combined stats wouldn’t give them an edge in any statistical category. So in that case, recent history will have to suffice. I will concede that the two clean sheet wins that Stoke have produced came against Hull and Sunderland – but they did manage to get a 1-1 draw away to Man U three rounds ago as well. The important thing is that with the recent wins, they’re beating teams that they should be beating. I’m not sure they should outright win against a semi-resurgent West Ham squad, but they should give a good account of themselves. I do feel confident that they will at least be in line to put up some goals on Swansea and Bournemouth later on.
Stoke are a hard sell at this point. I get it. But they haven’t conceded more than a single goal in any of their last four matches, so you have to like the defence at least putting the team in a position to get the win. Are they prolific scorers? Not yet. But they are using the talent they already had on hand to finally get those crucial results. Mock me if you must, but I stand by the fact that they’ve been a good play recently, and I see no reason why the trend shouldn’t continue against this level of competition.
Teams to Avoid
#1) Swansea – STK (A), MUN (H), EVE (A)
Who would’ve thought that playing away to Stoke would’ve been a key factor in making Swansea the worst play for the next several weeks? I’m kidding (sort of). We talked enough about Stoke above, so let’s look at the other fixtures. Manchester United are kind of a mess, but they’re a mess with a ton of firepower just waiting to to be properly aimed in the right direction. I’m not sure that Ibra up front is the force to be feared at this point, but it doesn’t really matter – Manchester are struggling against good clubs, but they still have enough talent to get results against clubs like Swansea. Everton may be the easiest game for the Swans in this list – because we all know how Everton absolutely loves to play to the level of their competition (*ugh*). In all seriousness, Swansea may get lucky and get 2 points out of this stretch if they play their cards right.
#2) West Brom – MCI (H), LEI (A), BUR (H)
WBA topped this list last week, but the inclusion of Burnley into their 3-game forecast dropped them to the second worst play you could have for this stretch. I just think that Manchester City are looking for a lowly team to take out some aggression on, and WBA’s number has come up. You almost feel bad for what’s about to happen to them. Also playing Leicester away is no easy task. Leicester are still one of the best home sides this year – and they were unlucky to concede just their second goal at home this year in their last match.
#3) West Ham – EVE (A), STK (H), TOT (A)
West Ham have finally started to gain some traction in their defence, but their attack has yet to really click into place. And unfortunately for them, it’s not going to get any easier to jump start that attack against the defensive teams like Everton and Tottenham. Add into that Stoke’s new defensive mindfulness and it looks like the Hammers will be lucky to get a goal or two in any of these matches coming up.
One Week Punt
Watford (H) vs HULL
Watford have certainly cooled off to the point that we no long talk about the great and wonderful Capoue like we used to. But that was bound to happen. A group of players come out and play above their expected level, and then the league adjusts. Whether that group of players makes a counter adjustment to get back on track is where the real story is. The last four fixtures for Watford have seen them score a total of just three goals while getting blanked twice. It hasn’t been pretty, but it’s very obvious that defences have adjusted to what Watford were doing early on.
If Watford are ever going to make that counter adjustment to get right, now would be a good time to get started in a match against Hull. No team has conceded more goals than Hull City (22), nor has any team conceded more shots from inside the box (107). So if Watford had a new wrinkle or strategy that they needed to work on to get back to their scoring ways, a game against Hull is the perfect spot to try to get some of that work in.
Past this Hull game, it’s going to be tough going with games against Liverpool and Leicester. But they’re a great play to consider for this round.