FPL Fixtures Analysis Gameweek 21
Welcome to FPL Fixtures Analysis Gameweek 22. To quote Shawshank Redemption: “I find I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head.” That about sums up my mood yesterday after Everton beat City 4-0. I tell you truly that I walked on clouds my entire Sunday. I smiled at my wife a bit more, I listened more attentively when my kids spoke to me. From that win, I was a better husband, a better father, a better man. But now today is Monday, and I’m supposed to revert back to the same lesser version of myself that you all know and love.
And for the purposes of this article, that’s probably a good thing. Had I written this article yesterday, I’m sure Everton would’ve been #1 on my list of buys, and I probably would’ve put City as the top team to avoid (although…that might not be a bad idea anyway). So let me try to put on my analytical hat and break down these fixtures without so much of the emotion that I carried yesterday – but forgive me if some of my good cheer tries to sneak through. This almost feels like the time I wrote an MLS article hopped up on a double dose of Dayquil: I’m buzzing hard, but I need to find a way to keep it together and make this thing coherent. On that account, I make no promises.
The Tracker in full…
Top 3 Best Buys
#1) Arsenal – BUR (H), WAT (H), CHE (A)
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[/three_fifth]Does it matter that Alexis Sanchez really looked fed up when he was subbed off on Saturday? Should we be concerned that Giroud eventually hobbled off after his goal? I guess the Arsenal detractors are probably making too great a deal of these issues, and the Arsenal faithful are probably making too light of them. Sure, Alexis looks like he’s really not happy – but he wasn’t happy before the game against Swansea and he still managed to get his goal anyway. And Giroud, was he really hurt? He scored and asked for a sub, but then he kept playing. And then he asked for a sub again…or maybe they just subbed him off to be precautionary. I don’t know, the whole thing was just very French, if you know what I mean. Either way, with all of the ‘turmoil’ that surrounds the club, they still won an easy 4-0 victory over a lesser team.
And that’s what Arsenal are set to face here in the coming matches, lesser teams (Chelsea excluded, of course). Burnley are a great story this year, they’re getting a good amount of wins and have a stout defence when they apply themselves – at least Heaton plays stout defence anyway. But they’re not on par with Arsenal. To this point, Burnley have played four matches against teams in the current Top 4, and they have lost three of those. They managed to beat Liverpool in the second week of the year, but they’ve already lost to Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham. And if you added Man City to the mix, you’d find another pair of losses for Burnley. Burnley are a good club, but they’re not competing with the big boys yet.
As for Watford, the team is in free fall. They’ve only managed to put across two goals in the last five matches, so those are numbers that even Petr Cech has to feel comfortable with. And by the time Arsenal finally get to Chelsea, well you can cross that bridge when you get to it. But these first two fixtures on Arsenal’s schedule make them must-haves in my book.
#2) Tottenham – MCI (A), SUN (A), MID (H)
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[/three_fifth]The Spurs look near unstoppable at this point. Their defence is solid, and their offence is absolutely rolling at the moment. And that’s going to be a problem for Man City come this weekend. Tottenham are coming off a 4-0 win over WBA, and City, like I said above, are coming off a 0-4 loss to Everton – so the most simple math in the equation checks out. The thing is, the Top 4 at the moment are all very similar in their stats, especially when it comes to goal differential and finding ways to shut down opponents whilst scoring in bunches. Every team in the Top 4 has a GD of at least +25, and City are sitting down at +15. In the Top 4, the average GA is 18.75, and Chelsea and Tottenham lead the way with 15 and 14 GA, respectively. City sit on 26 GA.
Now I know what you’re saying, “but Tottenham have to play City away, and that counts for something”. And yeah, that’s true. But looks at City’s last three home games: 2-1 over Burnley, 2-1 over Arsenal and 2-0 over Watford. Kudos for beating Arsenal in a tight fixture, but squeaking by against Burnley and Watford? Call me crazy, but I think that Tottenham, in their form, have a real shot at making City’s back line look foolish again. “But what about Aguero, he’s going to go off at any moment”. Hey, maybe he will. But I’m not betting my weekly allowance on Aguero to take off against a team that’s only conceding 0.6 goals per game on average.
Even if Tottenham have a hiccup against City, you only have to look at Sunderland and Middlesbrough to make up your mind that they’re still a great buy for this week. Sunderland, last I checked, still have only Jermaine Defoe playing for them, and playing 1 v 11 in professional football isn’t going to yield much success. And as for Middlesbrough, they just played to a 0-0 draw with Watford, and doesn’t everybody score against Watford? Whether or not Tottenham get 9 points this run is up for some debate, but it’s realistic to think that they could get 8-10 goals whilst only allowing a pair total through these next three matches.
#3) Manchester United – STK (A), HUL (H), LEI (A)
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[/three_fifth]I had a hard time making up my mind on the third pick this week. Chelsea are still in first place and are managing just fine, Costa or no Costa. But they have both Liverpool and Arsenal in their schedule. So likewise, I chose to take Liverpool out of the running due to them playing Chelsea – but that was tough since they have a cakewalk with Swansea as their next fixture. So I landed on Man United as my pick once again, because they have lesser teams to play against, and Ibra can’t stop himself from scoring. Also the linesmen really seem to love United, so their increase in offside goals makes them an attractive play.
But I really want to disqualify United from being listed, believe me. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why they keep throwing Fellaini into the mix. Every time that dude comes onto the pitch, it’s almost like playing Russian Roulette with your fantasy score. But somehow, they’re making it work, so we’ll stick with them again here.
Looking at their next game, you’d think that playing against Stoke just got a bit more interesting since they seemed to find some offence this last round – but then I remembered who Stoke beat, and it set my mind at ease. Stoke have indeed won their last two matches – but those were against Sunderland and Watford. Prior to those two matches they played Chelsea and Liverpool and lost both of those games by a combined score of 8-3. So yeah, when a more quality side comes to town, they tend to fold up.
Hull are still Hull, and I don’t really rate them against anybody that’s higher in the table than Sunderland or Swansea. And finally, United will play Leicester away. Now I raised a few eyebrows last week when I picked Chelsea to win easily over Leicester, and I’m glad that the Foxes proved my analysis to be correct. They simply are a mess right now. They’re missing too many pieces that went away to AFCON, and they don’t look like they know how to put Humpty Dumpty together again. Until Leicester are truly back to full strength (and until they make a savvy addition to the squad), I think they’ll be underdogs against these bigger clubs.
3 Teams To Avoid
#1) Hull City – CHE (A), MUN (A), LIV (H)
I said last week that Hull desperately needed to get a result against Bournemouth, because it was probably going to be their last chance at points for quite some time. And when you look at this schedule, you can see why. If any team in the league had a schedule this brutal, I would put them here as the top team to avoid – but this is doubly painful for a team that’s already in the relegation zone to have to play these teams in quick order. All those new Snodgrass owners are about to be put to the test for having to root for Hull to produce something through him – but let me say now, it’s not looking good.
#2) Swansea – LIV (A), SOU (H), MCI (A)
I like to imagine that Bob Bradley sat on his couch and laughed for the entirety of the 0-4 loss that the Swans suffered against Arsenal this past week. After all, when Bradley coached against Arsenal they only lost by a score of 2-3, and that was on the road. But the truth is, no matter who is coaching that team, they’re just not built with enough talent to compete. Liverpool and Man City should ragdoll this club, and even Southampton (Southy for you cool kids) shouldn’t have too much to worry about. Swansea are already the club that ‘leads’ the way in goals allowed on the year (49), and they’ll be the first team to hit the 50 GA mark on Saturday, no doubt in my mind.
#3) West Ham – MID (A), MCI (H), SOU (A)
Remember last week when I made West Ham my punt for the round? 3-0 over Palace was the result. You’re welcome. But honestly, they were a one week punt for a reason – they were at home against a lower opponent. But when they play on the road, they’re really not good at all. And now they’ve got a pair of road games to play and will host City in between, so it’s not looking great for a team that is also suffering an identity crisis now that their best player no longer wants to play. To date, West Ham have only won 2 games on the road (against Swansea and Palace), and they’ve allowed 19 goals through 10 games. And it really doesn’t matter who they play, good teams or bad. They just don’t perform well enough on the road to warrant much trust in them. And even though City are struggling, they’re still better than West Ham. No matter how you break this down, West Ham deserve this spot this week.
One Week Punt
West Brom – SUN (H)
People have been quite high on West Brom, and a few of their players have found their way onto many squads due to some higher-than-projected performances. But look, we all kind of knew that WBA were going to be outmatched in their game against Tottenham. In fact, their last three losses now have come against Tottenham, Arsenal and Man United. So yeah, they are a team of a certain size that can’t compete consistently against bigger clubs. But against clubs on their level? They’ve found a way to be incredibly effective. Sunderland don’t have an answer for any team right now unless Jermaine Defoe somehow earns a penalty or takes on the entire defence with one run – so I look for WBA to have a great bounceback game against them. Matt Phillips for captain, anyone?