Blank Gameweek 29 | Fantasy Premier LeagueFriday, March 19 2021
In a Fantasy Premier League season that has not offered us much, one would have hoped that this blank game week might have been a fun addition to the calendar. Unfortunately, the GW29 schedule gives us a super blank set of fixtures to navigate through without any outstanding picks, and even the punts feel a bit too far. What is most interesting is that these fixtures seem to pit teams of a similar ilk in terms of their attacking and defensive data.
Who is playing who?
Brighton vs Newcastle
I would invest in Brighton's defence as the Newcastle side are not good at attacking or defending.
Looking at their data, the Seagulls have been the second-best defence over the last six GWs, but like usual, Brighton have failed to deliver, letting in seven goals from an expected tally of 4.43 against.
The team have only allowed six big chances, 29 shots in the box, both 2nd best, and actually have the best total goal attempts conceded. But the data is still not translating as there is only one clean sheet in that period.
What gives me more certainty is the side that they are playing against Newcastle, who have been woeful due to the loss of their attacking players. Callum Wilson and Saint-Maximin are out, while Miguel Almiron is rated as 50/50 - and this is reflected in their incredibly poor attacking data.
Newcastle sit 3rd from bottom for xG over the last six in terms of attacking numbers, and all their forward line data is in the bottom half of the table.
This may also be a game week to take a punt on a Brighton forward as their underlying attacking data is good, and the Newcastle defence has not been great. The Seagulls have the 4th best shots inside the box and 5th best xG since GW23. But again, they have underperformed with an output of only five goals from 9.78 xG. Newcastle's numbers are not catastrophic, but they are bottom half of the table, and the side is low on confidence. If you are going to take a punt, this is the time as you will have only one week to suffer if it does not work!
So, the defensive assets have to be Sanchez and Dunk for me. Sanchez has some great stats to show why he is an upgrade on Ryan plus Dunk is a good attacker on set pieces from a side that does work on being great at dead ball situations.
The third Brighton slot could go to either:
- Neal Maupay has the highest xGI of any Brighton player this season and is normally on penalties.
- Pascal Gross can also take spot-kicks, is on set pieces and has the 4th highest chances created this season.
- Leandro Trossard has the second-highest xGI of Brighton players, is also on set pieces and has the 2nd highest xG of any Brighton player over the last six gameweeks.
For me, it is a punt too far, and I can just about fathom some trust in a Brighton defence that has burned me recently. But my trust issues with the Seagulls stop me from going in fully on their forward assets.
Fulham vs Leeds
This game is a tough one to call as Fulham have looked defensively strong recently. The Lilywhites were Top Four in defensive data before Manchester City but still have impressive numbers after sitting 7th for overall xG conceded. But what interests me is that Leeds also have a similar xG conceded during this period and sit just above Fulham.
Over the last six, Fulham have looked better than Leeds going forward with a better xG, but Leeds have better chances created, shots in the box and Big Chances created where they are second in the Premier League.
So, you can see that this is a tough matchup. Leeds have been better in attack, but they face a side that has improved defensively of late with a lot to play for. My faith in this game is invested in the attacking players as I do not feel a clean sheet, for either side is on the cards.
Lookman has been the main person in Fulham's attack, but Maja also catches the eye with 3.35 xG over the last six (two goals). This is an opportunity for him to get on the scoresheet and for Fulham to match some of their good attacking data.
Leeds will also be up for this; Raphinha has the 4th best xGI over the last six gameweeks, and so is one of my favourites in this tie. Patrick Bamford must have a look in as well.
West Ham vs Arsenal
Over the course of this season, West Ham have been a Top Five defence and a relatively good attack. In their recent games, the Hammers attack abilities have decreased a little, and they face an Arsenal team that are doing a good job blocking out opponents.
Defence from both teams seems the sensible one for this game. It is a derby of sorts, so neither side will want to lose this game.
Looking at the numbers, Arsenal sits 3rd, and West Ham 4th for best xG conceded over the last six. West Ham have done better in meeting those expected numbers with three clean sheets and four goals conceded, but Arsenal have conceded fewer shots in the box and attempts in total. My leaning is more towards West Ham in this game as they seem to be matching their numbers, whereas Arsenal have no clean sheets.
What is worrying, though, and why my general focus is on West Ham is the risk of rotation for Arsenal. It is uncertain who will play due to the Europa League, and players will be rested after the Olympiacos game.
For me, Fabianski is a good own, Cresswell is almost a must-have, then it is a toss-up between the more creative Coufal or, the more goal threatening Dawson.
Lingard is tempting due to taking spot-kicks, and Antonio can pick anyone apart on his day, but both Arsenal and West Ham's attacking data makes me think this might be a 0-0 bore draw.
Again, if I were to pick an attack to invest in, it would be West Ham. Arsenal have been sloppy at times, hence why they have no clean sheets in the last six, so if there is a goal, I can see it for the team in Claret rather than the Gunners.
Aston Villa vs Spurs
13 goals in their last six versus 4 goals in their previous 6. On the face of it, you would assume that it was Villa in the rich vein of goalscoring form and Tottenham with the poor output. But you would be wrong, it is the reverse, and things are worrying for Villa.
Since their COVID outbreak, Aston Villa have struggled to get results and score in games. Martinez has been the saving grace, ensuring Villa have overperformed their xG conceded by five goals. He is a good goalkeeper, but Spurs are a team filled with players who can score these chances that Villa have allowed.
Offensively, the Villains should not worry Spurs too much. They sit in the bottom half of the table for xG and have only scored 4 goals in their last six matches.
If Son is fit, then the South Korean, Harry Kane and Sergio Reguilon would be my picks. But, if he misses out, then Gareth Bale gets the nod even though his minutes might be managed.
You can also watch our accompanying Premier Pundits GW29 video here
Wishing you the best of luck! Statman J
Ben is football’s leading injury specialist. The ‘go-to’ guru for big hitters like Sky Sports, ESPN and NBC Sports when they need data. Or the BBC, talkSPORT and the broadsheets when a quote is required. His unique insight has helped provide a better understanding of what is really happening in the treatment rooms.
Johnny is a respected physiotherapist and sports scientist, specialising in football injuries and rehab. Johnny has headed up the medical departments at Chesterfield, Scunthorpe and Notts County. Overseeing everything from player-specific training loads to pre-signing medicals. He has a proven record working with elite athletes in Private Practice and is regularly called upon throughout Europe to deliver presentations on the latest rehab innovations.
Matt's short, unremarkable football career was ended by his own bad driving. His long, distinguished career as a football tipster was ended by his own good advice. Because bookmakers don’t like a winner. First, they closed his accounts. Then his members’ accounts. Then his tipping service. And now they employ him as a consultant. Funny old game.