Our Gameweek 7 coverage ends with this regular look back at a player, team and discussion point that attracted our interest in the weekend’s matches.
Watford‘s results have tailed off in recent weeks but their performance against Arsenal on Saturday suggests their players are still worthy of consideration from a Fantasy perspective for their upcoming favourable run of fixtures.
Gylfi Sigurdsson upstaged his more widely owned Everton team-mates with two goals and maximum bonus in the Toffees’ 3-0 win over Fulham on Saturday – we’ll examine his underlying statistics as a mid-priced midfield option.
Finally, we scrutinise the Fantasy Premier League credentials of both Wolves wing-backs: Jonny and Matt Doherty.
The Player – Gylfi Sigurdsson
There is a danger with these articles of simply singling out the player with the highest Gameweek score and lazily writing about their exploits of the previous weekend, rather than pinpointing anything undiscovered from a Fantasy perspective for the matches ahead.
Whilst that’s something we try to avoid in the Digest, there is a legitimate need to dissect Gylfi Sigurdsson‘s (£7.3m) performances given the number of column inches devoted to both Richarlison (£6.7m) and Theo Walcott (£6.6m) on this site in recent months.
While the Toffees face Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool away from home between now and Gameweek 16, they also top our Season Ticker for attack in home fixtures during that spell.
Neither Sigurdsson, Richarlison or Walcott are priced cheap enough to really be benchable players in those tricky away fixtures (unless you have a particularly well-balanced FPL squad of 13 playable outfield assets), but many Fantasy managers will be tempted to retain their/acquire an Everton midfield asset purely for the home matches (CRY, BRI, CAR, NEW, WAT) about to come.
The away defeat to Arsenal, in which Everton dominated in the opening 45 minutes, shows that Marco Silva’s side can still be an attacking threat in tough fixtures on the road, too.
The reason for isolating Everton’s favourable home fixtures and analysing Sigurdsson’s game is that the Icelandic midfielder performs much, much better at Goodison Park than he does on his travels.
Only one FPL midfielder has racked up more shots than Sigurdsson in home fixtures this season, while his minutes-per-chance average of 28.8 at home is significantly better than the rate of goalscoring opportunities (one every 111.5 minutes) on the road.
Sigurdsson’s minutes-per-chance created averages (27 at home vs 37 away) also reflects his potency on Merseyside.
Only David Silva (£8.5m) has made more key passes (in home fixtures and in Premier League matches overall) than Sigurdsson among FPL midfielders this season.
His missed penalty in the win over Fulham might turn out to be a big blow and it remains to be seen whether he is still on spot-kick duties going forward, but in Leighton Baines‘ (£5.3m) continued absence the Iceland international remains prominent at other set-piece situations (Sigurdsson has taken 27 corners this season and had three attempts from free-kicks).
The imminent return to fitness of Yerry Mina (£5.4m) – who scored three headed goals from corners in the World Cup – could also be a match made in heaven for Sigurdsson and his assist potential.
Richarlison remains the most widely owned Everton midfielder (sitting in 21.5% of FPL squads, with Sigurdsson only selected by 1.8% of Fantasy managers) and perhaps deservedly so from a goal threat point of view, registering almost twice as many penalty box touches per game as the Icelandic playmaker and having a better minutes-per-chance average.
Sigurdsson, however, is creating over three times as many chances as Richarlison per match.
Perhaps crucially, Sigurdsson is also outperforming Richarlison and Walcott in terms of expected goal involvement (xGI) and minutes-per-xGI.
Richarlison being available for £0.6m cheaper is perhaps the most decisive factor of all, but Sigurdsson is at least showing encouraging signs under Silva after his struggles during the Sam Allardyce reign of 2017/18 and his home form looks in excellent nick going into this run of five favourable fixtures at Goodison.
The Team – Watford
After recording four wins on the spin at the start of the season, it is now three league matches without a victory for Watford after Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at the Emirates.
The Hornets, however, sit second in our Season Ticker over the next five fixtures and the unfortunate nature of their defeat to Unai Emery’s side hints at more positive results ahead between now and the November international break.
The match in north London was similar to the Gunners’ victory over Everton a week earlier, with the hosts scoring two quickfire second-half goals to put the gloss on a slightly unconvincing performance in which their opponents were as much of an attacking threat as they were.
Watford had six big chances to score at the Emirates, more than any other club in Gameweek 7, and their expected goals (xG) tally was also the highest in the division last weekend.
Interestingly, half of those expected goals were from set plays – suggesting dead-ball specialist Jose Holebas (£4.9m), who has scored a combined total of two FPL points over the last three Gameweeks, remains as big an offensive threat as he did during his purple patch earlier in the campaign. Holebas, indeed, so nearly registered his fifth assist of the season when Troy Deeney (£6.1m) drew a fine stop from Bernd Leno (£4.8m) in the Arsenal goal from the Greek defender’s free-kick delivery.
Javi Gracia’s side had more attempts on goal, shots in the box and efforts on target than the Gunners on Saturday and were only undone when the hapless Craig Cathcart (£4.5m) turned the ball into his own goal on 80 minutes.
Deeney put in another impressive shift and while he, like Holebas, has blanked for three matches on the bounce, the long-time Watford servant is a possible mid-price forward option for these upcoming fixtures (BOU, wol, HUD, new, sou).
No player had more penalty box touches than Deeney at Arsenal last weekend, and while the Watford captain is not as trigger-happy as the likes of Aleksandar Mitrovic (£7.0m) or Raul Jimenez (£5.6m) in the budget/mid-price forward bracket, no first-team FPL forward hits the target (i.e. scores or forces the goalkeeper into a save) more accurately than Deeney this season. Deeney also created three of Watford’s six big chances at the Emirates.
Roberto Pereyra (£6.3m), that other Fantasy favourite from the early stages of the season, has blanked in his last four meanwhile but was inches away from curling an effort beyond Leno on Saturday and only three FPL midfielders have had more goal attempts from inside the opposition area this season.
Watford as a team rank about mid-table this season for a cluster of underlying attacking statistics but only Leicester City outside of the “big six” clubs have racked up more shots on target. The defeat to Arsenal, ironically given the number of big chances they carved out, was also the first time they have failed to score in a Premier League match this season.
It should also be noted that Gracia’s troops have faced three of last season’s top six in their most-recent four league fixtures, so those key performance indicators should be expected to rise in the coming weeks, particularly in the home matches against Bournemouth and Huddersfield Town.
The Hornets’ defence remains an attractive Fantasy proposition.
Watford have not recorded a clean sheet since their opening-day shut-out against Brighton, but the omens are good: only two clubs have conceded fewer shots on target than the Hornets this season, while just six sides have allowed fewer big chances.
The solidity of the spine of their team – Cathcart and the excellent Christian Kabasele (£4.5m) in defence; Abdoulaye Doucoure (£5.9m) and Etienne Capoue (£5.0m) providing an effective shield in front of them – is evidenced in the fact that only Manchester City have allowed fewer chances created from the centre of the pitch this season.
The attack-minded Daryl Janmaat‘s (£5.0m) injury might also be a blessing in disguise for their clean sheet prospects, given that understudy Marc Navarro (£4.3m) didn’t allow a single chance to be created from his flank on Saturday.
That both of Arsenal’s goals came from Watford’s left flank does, however, highlight the defensive deficiencies in Holebas’s game, and that left-back position remains perhaps the only chink in the Hornets’ armour at the moment.
As we have said, though, the last four matches (the Hornets also faced the gung-ho Fulham away) have represented a stern test, and the easing of their fixtures should offer plenty of encouragement for existing and prospective Fantasy owners. In the matches against Brighton, Burnley and Crystal Palace before this tricky spell, no Premier League club allowed fewer shots on target and only two sides conceded fewer big chances.
The Talking Point – Jonny v Doherty
Matt Doherty (£4.5m) has received plenty of attention in the Fantasy community over the last few weeks, but Jonny (£4.4m) has been posting similar underlying attacking numbers this season and finally got his due reward against Southampton on Saturday with Wolves’ second goal.
That Doherty was the provider of his fellow wing-back’s first Premier League strike was particularly apt, and leads us to scrutinise both players as Fantasy options.
A double-up with both players is one, borderline maverick option, of course, but many Fantasy managers will be choosing between one or the other as part of their cover for Wolves’ defence, with Rui Patricio (£4.5m) a solid budget goalkeeping option and Ryan Bennett (£4.1m) the new de rigeur “playable” bench fodder.
There is little to choose between Jonny and Doherty, but there are subtle differences in each wing-back’s game.
Doherty marginally leads the way in penalty box touches, attempts on goal and shots in the box, and indeed no other FPL defender is as prominent in the opposition area as the Irish international.
Doherty has also narrowly made more key passes and created more big chances than his team-mate on the opposite flank.
Jonny can best his colleague in fewer departments but has a better rate of take-ons, successful dribbles, CBIs (clearances, blocks and interceptions) and pass completion, which accounts for the Portuguese defender’s better rate of baseline bonus points.
Attacking returns won’t be a feature of their game every week (before Saturday’s goal, the pair had only one assist to show between them all season) and given that the pair will perhaps individually rack up more clean sheets than goal involvements this season (Wolves have already recorded three shut-outs and no Premier League club has conceded fewer big chances this season), Jonny has the edge on the Bonus Points System to bolster his four clean sheet points with bonus.
For underlying attacking numbers, though, Doherty is still the stand-out candidate. Jonny’s key performance indicators aren’t a million miles away from that of his team-mate and indeed rank highly among other FPL defenders, but Wolves’ Irish wing-back currently leads the way in the underlying statistics that really matter from an offensive perspective.
Whether Doherty can convert his penalty box prominence into goals is another question, though, as anyone who witnessed his shanked finish in the 1-0 win over Burnley will attest.
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