#FPLMatchups #GW9 – The Two Tales of the Season

FPL Matchup

We often tend to look at fixtures in chunks of 4 or 6 GW’s, so 8 is a perfect number to begin looking for patterns, and trends in terms of half-season chunks. Word of caution, however, 8 weeks is not much time to establish patterns and any analysis done solely on this season’s observations will be highly subject to variance. With that disclaimer out of the way, I will turn my attention to GW 9 and examine 5 popular captaincy options, and their 5 matchups. I will present data on each for GW’s 1-4, and GW’s 5-8. I am looking for the right combination of increasing form for attacker, and decreasing form of opponents defence.

All stats per appearance

  1. Fernandes / WBA
  2. Mane / LEI
  3. Werner / NEW
  4. DCL / FUL
  5. Vardy / LIV
  1. Bruno Fernandes / WBA
    1. Bruno

Bruno Fernandes famously had a non-penalty xG of 0.0 in his first three matches (GWs 1-4), averaging 75 minutes per match. In the last 4 matches (GWs 5-8) he has played an average of 86 minutes per match, and his non-penalty xG per match crept up to 0.2. The problem is that his overall xG dropped from 0.6 to 0.4. Bruno’s xGI has also dropped from 0.8 to 0.6 while his xGI Delta is up  0.5, indicating he has slightly begun outperforming his stats. The lack of penalty kicks in recent weeks is a big deal for Bruno’s production. A Bruno selection therefore seems subject to some level of variance.

To confuse things further, here are Bruno’s goal attempts in the first 3 matches compared to the last 4. He is certainly much more active and getting more opportunities inside and outside the box. The hope for Bruno owners is that these opportunities lead to production. The other hope may be in their opponents.

  • WBA
 GWs 1-4GWs 5-8
Goals conceded / 903.21.2
xG Conceded / 902.51.2
Goal Attempts Conceded /9016.211.8
Big Chances Conceded / 903.01.8
Successful Passes in Opponents Half81.2128.6

While not a difficult matchup, WBA improvement the past 4 weeks is notable. I include the successful passes because the dramatic improvement in that stat means their back line is not under so much pressure. The team has been able to have more of the ball in safer areas of the field.

We see this also represented in the xG Shots Conceded map. Much lower xG in the opportunities being conceded by WBA these days.

  • Sadio Mane / LEI
    • Sadio

I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but Mane’s shift in positioning is interesting to me. Notice how his touch heatmap indicates he is getting the ball further inside and in the box. His stats, however, have declined in recent weeks. xG/90 has been cut in half from 0.8 to 0.4, and his xGI/90 has been sliced by a third from 0.9 to 0.6.

I reconcile the data and the heatmap with an explanation from the eye test. Watching Liverpool, they are increasingly forcing the ball to Salah, leaving Mane with fewer opportunities. Mane has therefore been forced to come inside more to be seen. Since players aren’t finding the long and intermediate balls to him anymore, he comes inside looking for the short balls. Without Salah, I expect Liverpool to force the ball to Mane. His numbers should improve if he becomes the talisman of this team for the next week or two, or more.

  • LEI

Leicester have conceded the 5th most chances from their right side (29), providing an opportunity for Mane. Leicester’s defensive stats are slightly better the last 4 GWs when compared to the first 4 GWs in every area except for one – chances conceded from the right side of the field. I like Mane to buck LEI defensive trend and capitalize with increased opportunities.

  • Timo Werner / NEW
    • Timo

Werner is on the rise in almost every attacking statistical category.

  • xG/90 0.2 to 0.5
  • xGI/90 0.3 to 0.7
  • BC/90 0.2 to 1.0

His xG shots map looks like a hunter narrowing in on its prey. The circles are getting bigger and getting closer to goal. This is largely thanks to the delivery of Hakim Ziyech. His ability to place a ball in the path of a player is outstanding.

  • NEW

Newcastle are a side that are conceding 18.8 goal attempts per 90 compared to 14.5 goal attempts per 90 in GWs 1-4. However, NEW are conceding only 0.8 big chances per 90 in the past 4 games compared to 1.5 in the first 4 GWs.

The data is supported by the heatmap. There is less red (volume) in the first 4 GWs on the left, but the goal attempts are closer to goal. On the right we have more volume, but almost all outside the 6 yard box. Not sure this slight change will affect Werner much. I like him to take advantage of the volume.

  • Dominic Calvert Lewin / FUL
    • DCL

DCLs touch heat map really says it all. When Richarlison is playing, DCL can focus on poaching in the box. When Richarlison is not playing, teams can play more compact because they don’t have to cover their right flank as much. This squeezes DCL out of the box in order to find the ball. With Richarlison and Hamez returning to provide service, we can expect DCLs touch heatmap to converge once again around the top of the 6 yard box.

  • FUL

Fulham have improved in almost every statistical category in attack, but their defense has actually seen a slight decline since GW 5. The main stat that concerns me from a FUL point of view is that Fulham have conceded the 2nd most headed chances this season and it is getting worse. The rate has increased from 2.0 headed chances per match to 3.5 headed chances per match. Remember DCLs conversion rate on his headed chances earlier this season? It would come as no surprise to see DCL bag a return off a headed chance in this match.

Fulham concedes the vast majority of chances right in the most vulnerable area for headers and tap ins. DCL’s specialty will once again come to shine in GW9.

  • Vardy / LIV
    • Jamie Vardy

Vardy began the season with 4 penalties in the first 3 matches. He has had 3 in the remaining 5. This is surely an unsustainable rate for him, but as his penalties decline, his stats are improving. His non-penalty xG/match was 0.2 in the first 4 GWs, and in the last 4 it has bounced to 0.6. His min/xGI has also decreased from 85.7 to 58.1.

To add, Vardy received more passes in the final third (6.7) in the last 4 than in the first four (4.8). Vardy also had more goal attempts (3.0/1.8), attempts in the box (2.7/1.8), and big chances (2.0/1.5) in GWs 5-8 than in GWs 1-4. We can’t get lost in the stats with Vardy, but the subtle signs are pointing in the right direction for him.

The passes received heatmap illustrates Vardy’s versatility, and highlights his increased goal involvement. With the increased movement around the field, we can see he has also had increased activity in the opponent’s penalty box.

  • LIV

The LIV analysis is a relatively simple one. They have struggled defensively all season long (see #FPLMatchups #GW2 for a look at their defensive problems), and their defense has been on the decline from there since the loss of VVD. Now we add the losses of Gomez and TAA to the list, and the fact that Maddison finally seems healthy to spread the passes around, and I like Vardy to have one of his statement matches against a big club.

Every player of course comes with risk and opportunity. As always, find the stats that speak loudest to you and formulate your reasoning for your own pick. I will be going with Vardy this GW. And, for the record, I am on wildcard now and I am not even bringing in Fernandes.

This decision could go horribly wrong, but I must go with the stats that speak to me.

Good luck to you all, may your arrows be green, and thanks, as always, for spending some time of your life reading #FPLMatchups.

Regards,

Gabriel Penaloza.

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