Two-time top 1k finisher Lateriser, currently ranked 477 in the world, provides his latest thoughts…
As the football continues at a frightening pace, Fantasy Premier League is becoming harder to navigate from each day to the next.
As soon as you get out of one Gameweek, the next one is in your face. Bandwagons, interpretations and data points are changing twice every week.
The end of the season is hurtling ever closer so if you’re chasing in your mini-league, big moves need to come-off now.
Is being aggressive the answer or do we wait and watch and let others make the mistakes? That’s the question many of you will be asking right now.
In this article, I hope to provide you with a healthy mix of both to give you an insight into my decision-making process. I have also thrown in some high-ceiling differentials you can look at if you’re looking to make big gains.
Does the rest period matter?
My good friend and fellow Pro-Pundit Zophar wrote this amazing article citing and analysing the rest period for all teams until Gameweek 35. I went ahead and took it a little further to determine whether the rest periods have made a significant difference, other than the obvious need for rotation for some clubs.
As you can see from the Gameweek 33+ table, the rest period didn’t really matter in terms of results because Leicester, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool won despite having a significantly lower rest period compared to their opponents.
My read of the situation is that the thin squad sizes of the smaller teams are the key factor here, as can be seen in the Gameweek 33+ results.
I also think the gulf in quality between the top teams and bottom is very apparent since the restart of football and is coming through in a crowd-less environment (more on that later).
For now, I’m just going to leave similar tables for Gameweek 34+ and Gameweek 35+ to look at to determine if there’s anything else worth pointing out.
My standout Gameweek 34+ fixture is Manchester City’s home meeting with Newcastle, which should feature a well-rested Kevin De Bruyne (£10.8m) and Allan Saint-Maximin (£5.5m) on the bench, following Steve Bruce’s recent comments.
“I don’t think I could ask him to go again on Wednesday, that’s for sure.” – Steve Bruce
Without having to worry about Saint-Maximin on the counter, it should give Manchester City plenty of control of the Newcastle game even when their attacks break down.
Pep Guardiola is almost certain to rotate some big players in alongside De Bruyne which is exactly what Fantasy managers want to see.
Yes, we could have another surprise like the defeat at Southampton result last night, but based on the expected goals (xG) of that game (0.62 vs 3.25), we are sure to see a response from Manchester City.
That said, Guardiola’s substitutes at St Mary’s did surprise me though. When Raheem Sterling (£11.7m) and Riyad Mahrez (£8.6m) were on the pitch, Manchester City dominated proceedings but once they were subbed off, it was a rather simple plan of crossing and hoping for the best.
This does make me wonder whether all Guardiola is interested is in at this point is to keep his players sharp for the run-in?
Either way, they are still going to be right up there in terms of goal scored and I am definitely going to indulge in Pep Roulette and take the roughs that come along with the smooth between now and the end of the season.
Meanwhile, Liverpool are about to play their third and fourth matches in very quick intervals. It is certainly somewhat concerning that, over their last two, they looked incredibly rusty.
By the end of Gameweek 35+, Jurgen Klopp’s men will have played four games in a matter of 10 days which makes me slightly sceptical of how effective they can be from a Fantasy perspective.
I am looking to sell Mohamed Salah (£12.6m) as I think there is a good chance he could be benched in one of the next two games due to that condensed schedule.
However, the rest period for Manchester United in Gameweek 34+ and Gameweek 35+ continues to look very good indeed, which is great news for all your Red Devils. I include Mason Greenwood (£4.5m) in that, as he has now started the last three matches in a row, impressing in all of them.
Because Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has finally found a winning formula, and his club has a very kind upcoming schedule in terms of recovery time, I expect minimal rotation – so make sure you’re using up all three of your Manchester United slots.
Do we awaken our inner Pep Guardiola?
Ever since I wrote this article in back in October, I have been implementing a Guardiola-esque rotation policy of my own all season. Chasing big-hitter hauls has always been my go-to strategy this season and now, more than ever, I’d like to advocate it.
Since the Premier League restarted, we have seen:
- Manchester City producing three performances with three or more goals in them.
- Manchester United average three goals-per-game
- Chelsea scored at least twice goals in all their post-restart games
- Bournemouth concede an average of three goals a game
- Norwich conceding more than two goals an average
Taking all of those factors into consideration, I think it’s important to chase fixtures for each of those teams, concentrating on owning Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea assets and anyone playing against Bournemouth or Norwich.
The theory that relegation-threatened assets would be motivated to perform above their normal level has been firmly thrown out of the window this season. The gulf in quality between the bigger and smaller teams is very apparent when there are no crowds present, with the possible exception of West Ham, who are at least scoring goals, while Aston Villa and Brighton have looked very compact and steady in defence.
Both these teams are among the best five teams for xGC since the restart, which is a very noteworthy stat in my opinion when we consider the Gameweek 34+ fixtures. Aston Villa host Manchester United and Liverpool travel to Brighton, so their defences are sure to play a big part in the captaincy discussion.
For that reason, we should not overlook Manchester City for the midweek matches.
Before Gameweek 33+, I did buy Gabriel Jesus (£9.6m) and Mahrez over De Bruyne considering the Belgian’s inevitable benching. Those punts did not go as planned by it could have been very different on another day as Jesus registered six shots in the box, three big chances and an xG of 1.42 in the Southampton game.
Similarly, I’m very certain that De Bruyne will start against Newcastle. Such thinking when it comes to a benched player being a strong buy or captaincy option for the next Gameweek does come into my consideration while making my decisions, apart from Manchester United).
I expect slightly less rotation for the prominent attacking assets of Manchester United and Chelsea since they have all to play for in the coming Gameweeks compared to Manchester City and Liverpool.
It is worth noting that the standout fixture for Guardiola is their home game against Bournemouth but it also comes only four days before their FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal, and he has mentioned many times that the cup games will take priority over the league games in his unrelenting quest for silverware.
Where are the upside chasing differentials?
I always get a lot of questions when it comes to hunting these upside chasing differentials.
I’ve had success with the strategy this season, most recently captaining Anthony Martial (£8.3m) for his hat-trick against Sheffield United.
I noticed that the Blades had conceded a fair amount of big chances in their first two fixtures and fancied a roll of the dice on Martial (he had the two best chances versus Tottenham Hotspur earlier) considering Dean Henderson (£5.2m) was absent.
Captaincy has admittedly been a fail for me since Gameweek 31+ but the key to this strategy is persistence.
There are a few opportunities I’ve spotted in terms of differentials which have a high ceiling should you fancy it.
Raheem Sterling (£11.7m) has looked Manchester City’s most dangerous player to me based on the eye-test.
Along with Mahrez, he has the highest number of shots and big chances amongst all city midfielders since the restart.
Harry Kane (£10.9m) plays a depleted Bournemouth this Gameweek and, while Spurs have looked bang average since the restart, I’ve noticed their centre-forward is no longer dropping as deep as before.
I strongly believe that FPL is a very dynamic game and you cannot let past ‘pre-conceived notions’ affect too many of your decisions. The objective data is that Kane (having played a game less than everyone) has received the highest number of big chances since the restart, is amongst the top five players for xG and Bournemouth have conceded the highest number of goals in that time.
All the regular caveats apply and you know the risks. I’m only presenting objective data and will be watching Kane closely against Everton.
At the time of writing, he has 11.05% effective ownership in the top 10k. Hugely tempting.
It is also worth noting out that a Golden-boot chasing Jamie Vardy (£9.7m) plays Bournemouth in Gameweek 35+ and Danny Ings (£7.3m), also in the race, plays them in Gameweek 37+.
It is exciting to see the two players who sit on top for expected goal involvement (xGI) since the restart currently below 10% effective ownership in the top 10k.
Both Michail Antonio (£6.9m) and Willian (£7.2m) have a lot to play for (Willian loves playing for a contract), have decent fixtures in the next three and are bang in-form.
It is worth noting that Willian’s data is slightly skewed due to the string of Chelsea penalties but we can’t ignore that as Christian Pulisic (£7.2m) looks like he’s going to win two penalties every game.
It’s very close between the two Chelsea assets but I personally prefer Pulisic as I think he has far greater goal threat from open play based on the eye-test.
The American is always busting his gut and constantly adjusting his position to make sure he’s in a goal-scoring position for every cross or pull-back (this is something xG can’t always tell you).
Lastly, the shots in the box table for this Gameweek amongst all attackers makes for interesting differential options.
I hope I have given you enough to chew on with this article. As so many budget assets are now emerging, it would be foolish to worry about value while making aggressive switches in my opinion.
Only five Gameweeks are left. Go sit in a corner and listen to your inner instinct and don’t be afraid.
On a personal note, after an incredibly fast start, I moved from 1,027th place to 145 in the world in the first two Gameweeks since the restart.
It’s gone a bit downhill since then and I will probably be outside the top 500 after this Gameweek, although I am sat at 477 ahead of the Spurs game. That said, there is still a lot to play for and we keep persisting.
Good luck with your Gameweek 34+ decisions!
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