Our regular critique of a player, team and discussion point that attracted our interest in the weekend’s matches returns – even though, of course, we still have one fixture of Gameweek 25 outstanding.
The most-transferred-in Fantasy Premier League asset of Gameweek 26 is the focus of our player profile, while the side taking on Mohamed Salah and co. this weekend are also analysed.
We also stress the importance of FA Cup fifth round weekend on the blanks and doubles ahead.
The Player – Son Heung-min
While The Digest generally strays away from the obvious candidates when it comes to player analysis, it seems perverse to continually ignore a Fantasy asset who has delivered attacking returns in 11 of his last 12 Premier League starts and who is at the centre of more transfer activity than any other FPL player ahead of Gameweek 26.
Son Heung-min (£8.7m) has ten goals and seven assists from Gameweek 11 onwards, with not even Mohamed Salah (£13.6m) able to match those 17 attacking returns during the period in question.
The Korean’s latest double-digit haul owed a lot to luck, of course, with Newcastle United goalkeeper Martin Dubravka (£5.0m) making a complete hash of Son’s well-hit but eminently saveable 20-yard effort that ended up securing the Lilywhites all three points.
Still, Son’s underlying statistics suggest the goal didn’t come completely out of the blue: no FPL midfielder had more attempts on goal than the South Korea international in Gameweek 25 (so far), with Son ranking third among his peers for touches and passes received in the final third.
Despite Son playing the bulk of the win over Newcastle on the left flank, only four midfielders had more penalty box touches than the in-form Spurs player at the weekend.
When FPL midfielders are filtered by their last four matches, Son sits second for attempts on goal, third for penalty box touches, joint-third for shots on target and joint-fourth for efforts in the opposition area.
It should be noted, however, that Son has only had one big chance in Gameweeks 21-25 and sits 22nd among players in his position for expected goals (xG) when midfielders are filtered by their last four matches.
According to the Opta numbers, no FPL midfielder is overachieving more than Son when compared to their expected goal output during the above timeframe.
Certainly, Son hadn’t really looked like scoring before his 82nd-minute strike on Saturday: three of the Korean’s preceding four attempts on goal were blocked, with the other 25-yard effort sailing harmlessly off-target.
All four of Son’s shots before his goal came from the left side of the pitch and it was perhaps no coincidence that his match-winning strike only happened after a tactical reshuffle from Mauricio Pochettino late on.
Son had initially lined up on the left-hand side of a 4-2-3-1, with his touch heatmap below showing how wasted he was out on the flank:
The 78th-minute introduction of Danny Rose (£5.8m) on the left wing was a game-changer, with Pochettino switching to a 3-5-2 and pushing Son alongside Fernando Llorente (£5.7m) up front.
The hope for existing and prospective owners of Son is that Pochettino has learned a lesson about his initial team selection on Saturday, with the Korean’s previous Fantasy success coming almost exclusively when played centrally in a 4-4-2 diamond or variations thereof.
The fact that Llorente has assisted both of Son’s strikes over the last two Gameweeks perhaps indicates that Harry Kane‘s (£12.4m) availability isn’t integral to the Korean midfielder’s FPL appeal – but where Pochettino plays him is.
It could be argued that Spurs’ fixtures aren’t actually that great in the coming two Gameweeks ahead of a double-header against Chelsea and Arsenal.
The 4-3 anomaly at Wolves aside, Leicester have proven to be tough cookies against both Liverpool and Manchester United in the last seven days, restricting their “big six” opposition to one goal apiece and a combined two big chances.
Only the current top four have conceded fewer goals than the Foxes in 2018/19, with Claude Puel’s side sitting in the top six for fewest attempts on goal, shots on target and big chances conceded this campaign.
Burnley, meanwhile, have tightened up considerably after their early-season struggles: only Manchester United have conceded fewer goals in the last six Gameweeks.
The Clarets’ improved performances had started in December and Sean Dyche’s side came within minutes of frustrating Spurs at Wembley in Gameweek 17, only for a last-gasp Christian Eriksen (£9.3m) strike to break the deadlock.
Son remains an undeniably excellent prospect, of course, and those “unsustainable” returns have, as it turns out, sustained for the best part of three months now.
The sheer numbers drafting Son into their teams – over 400,000 before Gameweek 25 and another 200,000 already this week – is a scary prospect too, for those daring to go without the Korean based on any of the doubts expressed above or elsewhere.
One final caveat for those steadily building a team ahead of Blank Gameweek 31 (more on which below): despite having been knocked out of the FA Cup, Spurs will still be without a Premier League fixture in Gameweeks 31 and 33 if Crystal Palace and Brighton progress to the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the domestic cup competition respectively.
The Team – Bournemouth
Owners of Liverpool’s defensive assets will be getting twitchy given that the Reds are on a run of only one clean sheet in the last six Gameweeks, with injuries having seemingly taken a toll on their hitherto reliable solidity.
Liverpool’s fallibility at set plays is of particular concern, with Jurgen Klopp’s side having conceded three goals in as many Gameweeks from dead-ball situations.
Owners of Ryan Fraser (£6.1m) will be particularly encouraged by that statistic, as well as the fact that the Reds allowed eight chances from corners and free-kicks against West Ham United on Monday.
The Cherries are something of a Jekyll-and-Hyde team, however, having followed up their comprehensive thrashing of Chelsea in Gameweek 24 with a limp 2-0 defeat at Cardiff on Saturday.
Fortunately for us Fantasy managers who like neat patterns and predictable form, Bournemouth’s performances have become formulaic.
Eddie Howe’s side remain a force to be reckoned with on their own soil, having lost only once in their last six league matches at the Vitality Stadium, winning four.
Away from home, however, the Cherries are diabolical, losing their last seven successive Premier League fixtures on the road and conceding more goals (20) than any of their divisional rivals along the way.
Howe’s side have hit the back of the net on only three occasions in those fixtures, which would be of some encouragement to owners of Andrew Robertson (£6.8m) et al ahead of the two clubs’ meeting at Anfield on Saturday.
When Premier League sides are ranked by their last half-dozen away matches, the Cherries sit joint-17th for big chances created.
It should be pointed out, however, that only Brighton have carved out more opportunities from set plays away from home than Bournemouth in the period studied.
The Cherries didn’t even hit double figures for attempts on goal against Cardiff, with only two of their shots forcing a save.
The loss of David Brooks (£5.1m) to injury has further neutralised Bournemouth’s goal threat, with Callum Wilson (£6.4m) also currently on the sidelines with a knee problem.
Liverpool have struggled to carve out many chances in the last two Gameweeks but the omens are positive for this weekend: Howe’s troops have conceded the most goals and big chances when Premier League sides are filtered by their last six away fixtures.
Nathaniel Clyne (£4.4m) has impressed since making a loan move from Anfield but he will be ineligible to face his parent club this weekend, leaving a void at right-back.
Adam Smith (£4.3m) would seem likely to move across from left-back to cover in his usual position, but the prospect of Salah – if stationed right – up against veteran Charlie Daniels or the unproven Diego Rico (both £4.1m) is an appetising one.
And, lest we forget, Bournemouth’s only home defeat in the last two months was a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Liverpool – Salah posting his highest score (21 points) of the season in the process.
The Talking Point – The FA Cup Fifth Round
The most important weekend of the FPL season might be one in which no Premier League matches are held.
The fifth round of the FA Cup takes place from Friday 15 to Monday 18 February and, given that replays have now been abolished from this stage of the competition, we will finally learn the extent of the second – and possibly most crucial – Blank Gameweek of the season once the full-time whistle blows at Stamford Bridge in little under two weeks’ time.
Gameweek 27 was/is viewed as something of a navigable mini-blank as only four teams – Manchester City, Everton, Chelsea and Brighton – will be without a Premier League fixture.
Gameweek 31 was always likely to be the most destructive Gameweek of the season, given that it clashes with the FA Cup fifth round, but the frequent giant-killings of 2018/19 have reduced the number of top-flight clubs left in the competition to seven (that will become six if Brighton fall to West Brom this evening).
At the time of writing, we can still have anything from four to nine FPL fixtures in Gameweek 31.
Chelsea v Manchester United is the only all-Premier League tie in the fifth round, with Crystal Palace, Wolves, Watford, Manchester City and Brighton (if they progress at the Hawthorns tonight) all facing sides from the Football League.
Six blanks is still a very real possibility in Gameweek 31, then, but any Fantasy manager who thinks they have their chip strategy already sorted for the coming months ahead may be perhaps advised to hang fire until the FA Cup quarter-final draw has been made.
Those who were planning on free-hitting in Gameweek 31, for example, may suddenly find that they are able to put out a competitive starting XI without the use of this chip, particularly if the likes of Wolves, Chelsea and/or Crystal Palace – whose assets are well-owned in FPL – are eliminated (we are taken it as almost a given that Manchester City will see off Newport County).
Similarly, those who were planning on building a Gameweek 31 team from this point onwards, possibly with a view to free-hitting or wildcarding in Gameweek 32, may find themselves stuck with some undesirable assets or overlooking several premium options in the weeks leading up to the blank if the following fixtures (the ones confirmed for Gameweek 31 so far) remain the only ones standing:
Bournemouth v Newcastle
Burnley v Leicester
Fulham v Liverpool
West Ham v Huddersfield
The number of blanks in Gameweek 31 will then of course directly affect the magnitude of Double Gameweek 32, Blank Gameweek 33 and Double Gameweek 35.
Chip strategy is something we have already discussed in the last few weeks but we will return to the subject in earnest once the FA Cup fifth round has been staged, as so much could still happen in the last 16 of that competition.
Flexibility seems to be the key for now, at least.
Become a Member and access our data
Memberships for the 2018/19 campaign are now available for the price of just £10.
Join now to get the following:
- Plot your transfer strategies using the fully interactive Season Ticker.
- Get projections for every Premier League player provided by the Rate My Team statistical model.
- Use Rate My Team throughout the season to guide your selections and transfers.
- Get access to over 130+ exclusive members articles over the season.
- Analyse our OPTA-powered statistic tables specifically tailored for Fantasy Football Managers.
- Use our exclusive tool to build custom stats tables from over 100 OPTA player and team stats.
- View heatmaps and expected goals data for every player.
- Use our powerful comparison tool to analyse players head-to-head.