Our Gameweek 11 coverage ends with this regular look back at a player, team and discussion point that attracted our interest in the weekend’s matches.
Our focused player and team actually meet each other this Saturday, but both are Felipe Anderson (£6.8m) and Huddersfield Town‘s defence are worthy of deeper scrutiny following their performances in Gameweek 11.
We also ponder when FPL managers still sitting on their first Wildcards might decide to use their prized chip.
The Player – Felipe Anderson
While we have discussed the pros and cons of Marko Arnautovic, Grady Diangana and West Ham’s defence in recent weeks, Anderson’s 13-point haul against Burnley last weekend prompted us to take a closer look at the mercurial Brazilian.
The summer signing from Lazio certainly appeals from a fixtures point of view, with the Hammers only facing Manchester City of the “big six” sides between now and Gameweek 22.
West Ham, indeed, sit top of our Season Ticker from now until January 2019.
Anderson is the seventh-most-bought FPL midfielder ahead of Gameweek 12, a predictable market trend given his double-digit haul against the Clarets and availability in the same price bracket as the most-sold midfielder of this round of fixtures: Leicester City’s James Maddison (£6.9m).
There was certainly nothing wrong with some of Anderson’s underlying statistics this weekend: no FPL midfielder had more goal attempts, efforts from inside the opposition box or shots on target than the Brazilian in Gameweek 12 and indeed he had more shots on goal than any player on show at the London Stadium on Saturday – even Arnautovic.
Anderson also made two key passes, one of which resulted in a “big chance” for Arnautovic that the Austrian striker spurned.
The Brazilian midfielder certainly passed Gregor and many others’ eye test at the weekend and could well have emerged from West Ham’s 4-2 win with a Gameweek 12 score better than Raheem Sterling‘s (£11.1m), given that two of his other shots on goal either clipped the woodwork or were cleared off the line.
Anderson’s creativity, rather than his goal threat, had marked him out as a possible mid-price FPL candidate for this run of fixtures and the Brazilian ranks ninth among midfielders for key passes in 2018/19 – despite the Hammers having faced five of the “big six” sides in the opening 11 Gameweeks.
Here is where we urge caution, however.
Anderson has only created two big chances this campaign (one of which was for Arnautovic on Saturday) and more than doubled his season’s total for shots in the box in the victory over the Clarets last weekend.
Before Saturday, Anderson had been averaging less than one shot per appearance in the Premier League.
The Brazilian has also recorded fewer penalty box touches in 2018/19 than 31 other FPL midfielders, despite starting all 11 of the Hammers’ matches and lasting 90 minutes in seven of them.
Never underestimate Burnley’s unfortunate ability to make an FPL asset all-the-more attractive, either – Ross Barkley (£5.9m) delivered a 17-point haul against Sean Dyche’s side in Gameweek 10 before putting in an anonymous showing against Crystal Palace on Sunday.
The Clarets have conceded more shots on goal, efforts on target and big chances than any top-flight side this season.
It was only last week that we were discussing Anderson’s pitiful showing in the Carabao Cup defeat to Spurs (after a similarly anonymous display against the Lilywhites in Gameweek 9) and his manager acknowledged that the ex-Lazio star owed the Hammers’ fans a performance:
Well, Felipe scored two goals and made an assist and missed two goals more!
I said, when you asked me about Felipe [before the game], that nobody was happy with his performance, but the first one who wasn’t happy was him.
He knew what he must do and he has 100 per cent commitment for the club, so I was absolutely sure he was going to produce this performance in this game and he never had any chance not to be in the starting XI. That was a decision I had taken and I spoke about with him a lot of days ago.
It may be that Saturday’s display gives Anderson’s season a kick-start and the confidence boost he needs, but with the improving Huddersfield Town (see below) and Manchester City to come in the next two matches, we await further evidence from Anderson regarding his viability as a mid-price midfield asset.
The Team – Huddersfield Town
Cardiff City aside, Huddersfield Town are perhaps the least-appealing Premier League team of 2018/19 from a Fantasy perspective – or at least have been until the last few weeks.
While we will be staying well clear of their FPL midfielders and attackers (the Terriers having scored a league-low five goals this season), David Wagner’s side have been showing steady signs of improvement in defence just in time for an appealing run of fixtures between now and mid-January.
While trips to Bournemouth, Arsenal and Manchester United are a deterrent, the Terriers’ home fixtures are the best in the division up to and including Gameweek 21 – the West Yorkshire club welcome West Ham, Brighton, Newcastle, Southampton and Burnley to the John Smith’s Stadium in their next five matches on home soil, all of whom sit in the bottom half of the table for goals scored and shots on target registered.
A Huddersfield stopper, then, could be used as a fifth defender in rotation for those favourable home fixtures over the next ten Gameweeks.
Our analysis of Huddersfield’s defence was not so much prompted by Monday night’s clean sheet against Fulham (only their second of the season) but the underlying numbers beneath their recent displays.
Remarkably, Town have allowed fewer big chances than any other side in the Premier League over the last four Gameweeks – all of which arrived in the chastening 3-0 defeat at Watford.
Given that the focus of this piece is predominantly on the Terriers’ home fixtures, the fact that only Manchester City and Liverpool have allowed fewer big chances on home soil than Wagner’s side this season also makes for encouraging reading.
This is a particularly noteworthy achievement given that Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool have all visited West Yorkshire in 2018/19.
Huddersfield are in fact one of only two clubs to have prevented Liverpool from registering a big chance in a league game this season.
Just three clubs have allowed fewer shots on target than the Terriers in home matches this season, meanwhile.
Nineteen of the 21 goals that the Terriers have conceded this season have come in matches against sides in the top half of the Premier League table (nine were shipped in the first two Gameweeks) with Wagner’s troops conceding on just two occasions in four fixtures against fellow strugglers Fulham, Cardiff, Burnley and Crystal Palace.
As he proved on Monday evening, Christopher Schindler (£4.3m) appears to be the main goal threat at the back – no Huddersfield defender has recorded more attempts on goal, shots in the box or penalty box touches than the German centre-half this season.
A word though on Chris Lowe (£4.4m), who was unfortunate not to collect an assist for his side’s winning goal against Fulham for the cross that ultimately led to Timothy Fosu-Mensah deflecting Schindler’s header into his own net.
Lowe’s attacking potential is all-the-more great in a wing-back system, which Wagner has employed in five of Huddersfield’s six home matches this season and will surely again use against West Ham on Saturday after the result on Monday night.
Only three defenders have delivered more crosses in 2018/19 than Lowe, who has also taken 19 corners for his side this season.
Lowe is also out-performing his fellow Huddersfield defenders on the Bonus Points System.
The Fantasy community are hardly going to rush out and snap up a Terriers defender based on what we have outlined above or even factoring in their excellent fixtures.
With many FPL bosses considering Aaron-Wan Bissaka (£4.3m) and Matt Doherty (£4.9m) as budget season-keepers, room may be short for another cut-price defensive option in our squads.
The Huddersfield backline at least, though, deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Newcastle’s and Brighton’s, both of whose defenders have been tipped up in the Fantasy community in recent weeks.
The Talking Point – A Gameweek 15 Wildcard
At the point of the Gameweek 11 deadline, around 3.8 million FPL managers had yet to use their first Wildcard.
A large proportion of that figure will be accounted for by ghost teams and “casuals”, but there remains a significant number of Fantasy bosses who have been sitting on their prized chip for longer than they would have perhaps anticipated at the start of 2018/19.
The question of when to deploy their Wildcard will no doubt be at the forefront of these managers’ minds and the consensus in the Fantasy community seems to be that sometime around Gameweek 15 might be the time to pull the trigger.
The fixture turns for a number of clubs around this point is reason enough to give the Wildcard deployment consideration.
Spurs are the main beneficiaries of this swing: after their trip to the Emirates in Gameweek 14, Mauricio Pochettino’s side then only face one fellow member of the “big six” group – Manchester United – in the subsequent 13 Gameweeks.
Christian Eriksen (£9.2m) and Dele Alli (£8.9m) may be fully integrated back into the starting XI by that point to offer us some differential premium midfield picks, while Harry Kane (£12.4m) has an audition of sorts over the next month in order to force his way back into our thinking ahead of this excellent sequence of matches.
The worst of Arsenal’s fixtures will be over by Gameweek 16, meanwhile, and the Gunners welcome Huddersfield, Burnley, Fulham and Cardiff to the Emirates from then until Gameweek 24. Unai Emery’s side also have away days at Southampton and Brighton during this spell.
Those FPL managers who have resisted premium strikers this season may re-think their strategies with Alexandre Lacazette (£9.7m) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.9m) re-entering the forward equation – if they weren’t already prominent in our thoughts – at the beginning of December.
A trip to Liverpool aside, Manchester United also have a fine run of matches from Gameweeks 16-21, coming up against Fulham, Cardiff, Huddersfield and Newcastle in December and early January.
Plans could also be set in motion for Gameweek 17, when Manchester City’s fixture run eases considerably – from that point onwards, they face only Liverpool of the “big six” until early February.
Chelsea also avoid any of their fellow title challengers from Gameweeks 17-22.
Liverpool, by contrast, have the worst run of fixtures on our Season Ticker between Gameweeks 17-21.
After encounters with Huddersfield Town and Cardiff City in Gameweeks 13 and 14, Wolves’ fixtures are among the most unappealing in the division with Chelsea, Bournemouth, Liverpool, Spurs and Manchester City to face between Gameweeks 15 and 22.
For those FPL managers who are still harbouring non-playing bench fodder, meanwhile, a Gameweek 15/16/17 Wildcard would be a good time to stock up on budget options who are guaranteed playing time ahead of the packed festive schedule.
Over Christmas and New Year last season, Mohamed Salah (£13.0m), Sadio Mane (£9.8m), Andrew Robertson (£6.4m), Eden Hazard (£11.3m) and Marko Arnautovic (£7.1m) all missed at least one game through rotation, illness or injury.
Kane and Raheem Sterling (£11.1m), meanwhile, were among the players who served up an irritating “one-pointer” off the bench.
While there is nothing that can be done regarding those cameo substitute appearances, winter Wildcarders can at least ensure they have a playing squad of 13 outfielders before we encounter the turbulence that the festive pile-up brings.
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