The expression “Can’t see the forest for the trees” is used to describe people too involved in the details to see the bigger picture. I feel like my FPL experience this year has been characterized by the opposite. I have been so focused on larger patterns and broader tactical analyses that I have missed the individual trees in the forest. I have not seen the trees for the forest.
It is with this in mind that I adopt a narrow lens this week. I will be looking at how data from the past 2-3 weeks compares with data from the beginning of the season. I am seeing a shift for a few teams, and I wanted to highlight them so that we may begin to shift how we see these teams in turn. This time all the shifts observed are negative. On the menu are two waning attacks and one waning defense of 3 teams whose players are highly owned. Let’s dig in.
- Tottenham Attack
- Chelsea Attack
- Leicester Defense
- The Little Prince Pick of the Week
TOT fully took advantage of an easy opening schedule by posting some of the best attacking stats in the league. By fully took advantage I am understating the case significantly. From GWs 2 to 7, TOT scored 18 goals while having an xG of 12.59. Outperforming xG by almost 1 goal per game resulted in a wave of points enjoyed by most fantasy managers, but regression was always inevitable, and it brings me to their inclusion here.
The table below shows TOTs precipitous decline in terms of their attacking output, but equally important is the regression to an xG Delta of close to zero. Spurs are now performing in accordance with their stats.
|Minutes Per BC||Minutes Per xG||xG Delta (Goals – xG)|
|TOT GWs 2-7||26||45.5||5.41|
|TOT GWs 8-10||56.8||101.4||0.2|
The question now is why? Enter Jose Mourinho. The Mourinho style has taken hold here in his proverbial second season with Spurs. Spurs faced a deep lying WBA, before holding both CHE and MCI scoreless in GWs 9 & 10. These 3 examples provide us both with a glimpse at what regression looks like for Spurs in easier matches, and sheds light on how Spurs will approach the bigger matches.
Spurs looked bereft of ideas in the match against WBA. Everything predictably went through Kane as he recorded the most key passes (4), and shots (7), and was able to reward owners in the 87th minute.
Against CHE and then MCI, however, Spurs did not even try to attack. Mourinho tactics in full effect as Sissoko and Hojbjerg would slot in the spaces between the defenders to clogging up the spaces for attackers to run into. It also keeps the fullbacks wide, preventing opposition teams from effectively using wingbacks to attack in behind. This obviously diminishes TOTs presence in midfield and their counter-attacks therefore begin from a deeper position. This adjustment has impacted TOT’s attack by cutting its threat by more than half. The xG Shots maps show Spurs against weaker opposition in GWs 2-7 and the 2 more recent difficult ones in 9 & 10. This approach has worked wonderfully for Mourinho.
CHE scored 20 goals in the first 8 GWs. Similarly to TOT, however, they were overperforming their xG by more than 1 goal per game. They led the league with 20 goals but had an xG of 11.96. Remember when we all rushed to bring in Ziyech when he had a double return against BUR then SHU? Well that spark of creativity coincided with a hard regression for CHE. The chart below shows the pendulum has swung for CHE. All applicable stats per 90 min.
|Team||Goals||Minutes Per Big Chance||Minutes Per xG||Shots – Inside Box||xG Delta (Goals – xG)||xG Expected Goals|
|CHE GWs 1-8||2.5||47.1||6||8||8.04||1.495|
|CHE GWs 9-10||0.5||47||82.1||9||-0.29||1.145|
You’ll notice most of CHE attacking stats are constant, but the min/xG has shot up more than 30%. The result of this is an xG Delta of close to zero. We are closer to expectations with CHE now, however the return of Pulisic to full time duties, along with a team whose players are growing together, may indicate the best of CHE is yet to come.
In GWs 1-8, LEI had the 7th lowest xGC. They were a solid middle of the road defense with some upside as Justin and Castagne also provided attacking returns. They have not been great defensively this season, and certainly some of that can be blamed on the many injuries they have had. LEI have recently become noteworthy, however because their defense now offers some of the best opportunities for opposing strikers.
Over the past 2 GWs, LEI have the most BCC (11), 2nd most goal attempts in the box (26), and joint highest xGC (5.51). 20 the 26 chances conceded in the past 2 GWs were conceded from the center or the left of the field, while only 6 chances were conceded from the right. This takes me back to watching how bad Christian Fuchs has been lately. He has been turned inside out and has looked out of his element recently. Soyuncu can’t return soon enough for the foxes.
The Little Prince Pick of the Week
The Little Prince pick this week dovetails LEIs analysis. During a week with a sudden blank and all sorts of suspect injuries and unpredictable rotation, I hope this week’s pick can reassure some of you. Catch a fleeting shooting star with Rihan Brewster this GW. Soyuncu was only able to play 17 minutes as he sadly suffered a setback to his groin injury. If SHU can find Brewster in space with early balls the way Gallagher did last season w/ Swansea in the Championship, Brewster could find himself in some very favorable opportunities to capitalize. He’s first bench for me and is almost sure to make the XI in #GWXI.
Bruno and Vardy are away so they have the stats from narrative on their side. “They haul in away games.” KDB seems nailed as the 10 even in easier fixtures. FUL are improving, but the Belgian at home against weak opposition after a match from which he may have wanted more is very enticing. Salah is still the king. Most everything, does everything most often, etc. And, if you want to go a bit rogue, I kind of like Chilwell this week to get some space behind Ayling while Pulisic occupies Koch.
These are a couple of players I’ve mentioned elsewhere this week which we may not be thinking about:
- Chris Wood – 2nd most BC in last 2 GWs (3)
- Ollie McBurnie – Most BC (4), SIB (10), SOT(5) in last 2 GWs
All the best!
Gabriel PenalozaFollow @FPLLens