By Jason McKenna
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Gameweek 2 is out of the way and in terms of output it was a difficult week for most of us! Captaincy favourite Salah blanked and so did the Liverpool defence which decreased most teams points in one game. The average of 41 points feels disappointing, especially after such a brilliant opening weekend. But this is Fantasy football and a bad gameweek is likely to happen at points through the season, the humbling brings us back to earth but also sparks worries. The main trends spotted are that people are already discussing wildcards, shipping out Liverpool defenders and bringing in Pukki. But it is two gameweeks, Liverpool were one of the best teams in Europe last season and had a solid defence, so it’s probably wise to hold on for a bit longer. A wildcard is very early at this stage with 2 gameweeks output and potentially anomalous results, more time is definitely needed. Plus Pukki looks good but 35% of Championship winners have gone down the season after their promotion and in the last 15 years only 2 Championship top scorers have scored 10+ goals in the next season in the Premier League. Norwich’s data is good but just keep expectations realistic with a promoted striker.
Below is our analysis for Gameweek 2, but the warning from our previous article still remains true: be careful with your approach, we only have limited data to work off at the moment. Some trends appear to be emerging but the league is relatively new. It’s difficult as one wants to jump on point scoring players but without seeing a players performance against differing quality teams it’s hard to gauge whether the quality is there or if it is a good run.
ARSENAL (2) VS (1) BURNLEY
Arsenal looked better at home against Burnley than in their Gameweek 1 game against Newcastle. Ceballos seems to be the addition the side needed to bring creativity to the midfield. At 5.5 he looks like a potentially good, cheap asset that could get a solid stream of involvements through the season in a team that should score a decent amount of goals.. He was on corners and free-kicks plus was an integral creative force in the midfield of the team. Ceballos 4 chances created, none big, but created 2 assists. Individually he seemed to solve a lot of the problems that were present last season and also on show against Newcastle, but it is only one game. We shall see how he grows through the season. At the weekend Arsenal were 3rd highest for chances created with 14 and 2 big chances created too. But this is against a Burnley side who like to sit deep and absorb pressure, so in other weeks it may be a better test to see the quality of Ceballos and the midfield, but first impressions are positive. Also the large number of chances may be a bit deceptive as although the side had 14 chances created and 15 shots, only 8 shots were in the box and the team had an xG of 0.84. So the volume of chances was there but maybe not the quality needed to score.
Burnley had a similar amount of chances created with 12, but their chances seemed to be slightly more clinical as the Clarets had more shots inside the box than Arsenal and had a higher xG of 1.52 as well. Barnes is looking good once again with an xG of 0.86 and 5 shots in the box.
It’s no secret that Arsenal struggle at the back, the under performance of Burnley shows that in other weeks the side may not be as lucky. The visitors looked good once again and although he conceded 2 goals Pope managed to pick up 3 points from the number of saves he made in the match pleasing owners who have faith in him. Pope at the very least is offering some great value for his owners at the moment and the signs are there that the Clarets are back to being formidable at the back. 2 difficult games are on the horizon with Wolves and Liverpool, but hopefully Pope will be kept busy and earn the save points that will make him score even if a clean sheet is not earned.
ASTON VILLA (1) VS (2) BOURNEMOUTH
From the data this game should have had the score reversed. Aston Villa had the 3rd highest shots in the box of the weekend and the second highest xG of gameweek 2. Going forward this data will have to be closely looked at as it may mean that Villa’s players are not very good at shooting. But it may have just been an unlucky day for them. Bournemouth on the other hand are trying the FPL community’s patience as they put in another lacklustre performance. The whole attack managed 8 shots in the box, 4 shots on target and a non-penalty xG of 0.85 against the newly promoted Aston Villa. The penalty really helped Bournemouth see this one over the line otherwise the match could have easily gone the other way. Fraser played the pass for Kings penalty but overall the front 3 didn’t produce much at all that game.
Harry Wilson actually looked the liveliest out of Bournemouth’s players and is a 6.0 player. With 5 shots, 3 shots in the box and a goal he had a good day away at Villa Park, but he is new to the team and has very limited data plus the concerns over Bournemouth mean it’s probably not wise to invest in him yet. Callum Wilson was the chief provider in this match with 5 chances, but none big, and Fraser managed 2 chances all match. It seems, at the moment, there is something not quite right with the Cherries. They haven’t yet proven that the heavy investment in them from the community is worth it.
With 22 goal attempts conceded, 12 shots in the box and an xCon of 2.38 you would be forgiven for thinking that these stats were coming from the promoted Villa, but they were in fact from Bournemouth. Although the side is unbeaten it seems clear that the defensive issues have not been solved from last season and against the better forwards in the Premier League it looks like Bournemouth could be conceding many goals again this season. The worry now though is that their forwards are not going to outscore their opponents, a hard one to watch for Bournemouth asset owners and Cherries fans.
Aston Villa assets are not yet appealing either. They have been somewhat unlucky in their 2 games back in the Premier League but their defence has not yet proven worthy of attention with no clean sheets. But better games are on the horizon, in their next 7 games they play only 1 top 6 side and some of the matches could be better chances to get results. But as of yet, at the back, there are better cheap defences to invest in.
In attack, as mentioned, the team seem to be poor finishers. John McGinn has already seen a price rise and seems a popular asset, but he seems to be a long shot merchant. This weekend he looked ,on the surface, to have an impressive 6 shots, but only 1 was in the box. Grealish has the second most chances created so far this season, on par with Cantwell with 8. But Norwich’s cheaper asset looks the better investment as the Canaries are scoring goals and looking potent as a team whereas Villa have yet to show quality up front. The more favourable run of games in the next 7 should give a better insight into the team, but hold off on the investments at the moment.
BRIGHTON (1) VS (1) WEST HAM
In this match Brighton were formidable in attack again and were super unlucky not to earn the 3 points. They looked good against a West Ham side whose defensive problems persist. Potter has seemingly worked his magic for the Seagulls, the side had 16 shots, 12 in the box and managed an xG of 2. A worry for fantasy Premier League is that it looks like Potter is still finding his best 11, but when a team does emerge then their assets are well priced. The positive thing is the side seemed to have really gelled well and taken to his tactics, we just need time to be able to see which of their attacking players we should bring into our sides.
Neal Maupay is worrying as he was a substitute again. But the worry is also that he does look good when he comes on and that his data seems to be someone to look at if he can nail that starting spot. Although he came on late in the game he managed the most penalty area touches of any Brighton player. He also managed 0.49 xG from 2 shots, both of them in the box, against West Ham in his short appearance. This is in line with his output in the Championship last season and he came into the Brighton side with a lot of positive analysis. I am holding onto him as Brighton are putting out good data and so is Maupay himself when he gets onto the pitch. I just hope he starts as he is clearly the best forward at the club.
A lot of people are discussing Trossard as he had 1 goal and almost had a second, but VAR ruled it out. I would say he looked okay with 3 shots in the box and starting in a clearly more attacking side, but for the same money Gross is looking back to his old self. He was more involved with the attack as he was deployed on the left, he provided 5 key passes, 5 chances created and 2 big chances created. Trossard seems to have more attacking potential but we know how good Gross can be and how important he is to the Seagulls. If Brighton can keep up this much improved play style into the next few gameweeks surely he is the midfielder that will profiteer most.
It must be said that West Ham were missing two key players, Anderson and Haller, but the team were not great in attack or defence. Chicharito managed to bag a goal but from the 0.83 xG, 4 shots in the box and 7 chances created in the match it is a surprise they were able to score. In last weeks article we said that this was the type of match West Ham had to win, or at least impress, to justify the value of their players and to see if they can realistically push into the top 10. But they seemed to have fallen at the first hurdle. We shall see how they do when their best first XI are fit, but they cannot have their best team week in week out and the lack of squad depth is worrying. Performances have not yet installed any faith into the side.
EVERTON (1) VS (0) WATFORD
The focus on Everton has been on their defensive quality so far, and the attention seems to be right as their forwards are not enough of a threat to look at them for investment. The Toffee’s should be targeting Europe this season and at home against a defence as poor as the Hornets they should be putting in a better shift. The side managed 7 shots in the box, with 4 shots on target and a low 0.67 xG. In the 2 gameweeks of 2019/20 they have managed just 4 shots on target, the joint lowest, and their xG is the 5th lowest in the Premier League. It could be a slow start but the team do not look like they are able to score. The side did well in not allowing many chances against themselves, but this is a Watford team poor at the back and going forward too. The scoreline was also a bit lucky for the Toffees who should have really lost on the day and have to count themselves lucky with the poor finishing from Watford.
Looking at the Hornets there seems to be real big problems for the side. They are 17 games now without a clean sheet and the data from the last part of the 2018/19 season was of a relegated side. The team this weekend were one of the bottom for chances created and the team seems to lack ideas as they relied too heavily on their 20 crosses, 4 of which were successful and 2 headed chances came from them. The Hornets did look slightly better going forward than their Gameweek 1 performance though as they managed an xG of 1.23. Dawson and Deeney had their best chances of the game but if the side cannot improve their defence and start being more clinical they will not produce much this season.
NORWICH (3) VS (1) NEWCASTLE
Norwich looked exceptionally good against Newcastle and added further fuel to the Pukki Party discussions. Pukki managed an impressive 0.84 xG in the game and looked a huge defensive pest throughout, but his hattrick was a huge over performance. He had a wonder strike and two well taken goals, on most other days statistically he would have only scored once. But the Norwich side looked brilliant against a deflated Magpies, they had an impressive 14 chances created, 3 of which were big, 12 shots in the box and an xG of 1.7. Since Gameweek 1 more than half a million managers have brought in the Finnish forward. This gameweek he had a thrilling 7 shots in the box, 6 of which were on target and was behind Sterling for opposition penalty area touches. But as mentioned in the beginning expectations have to be tempered as he does have difficult fixtures ahead and he has so far massively exceeded output data. Norwich look like they can provide high quality scoring chances for him to put away but he cannot keep up this form forever unless the xG data increases.
In the midfield Cantwell and Buendia were pulling the strings making things happen for the team. Together these two provided 7 key passes , 9 chances created and Cantwell came in big with 2 assists. We shall see how Norwich fair against the difficult opposition ahead but they proved themselves to be good against last years second best side, Liverpool. With more data behind them more definite conclusions can be drawn but the side is looking good so far. Cantwell is also looking like a cheap gem for managers to invest in. Dendoncker started the season as almost everyone benched midfielder, but Cantwell is at the same price and is heavily involved in his teams attacks. This is until Onal Hernandez returns from injury, but there is no return date yet so Cantwell looks to be another way to get involved in the attacking Norwich side.
Newcastle were a side touted for the drop at the start of the season, the negativity around the side is palpable and the lack of faith in Bruce as their new manager seemed somewhat justified even after just 2 weeks in charge. He admitted he made a “mistake” substitute in Gameweek 1 and against Norwich everything seemed to go wrong. Joelinton missed a good opportunity to send the Magpies ahead early on and the rest of the afternoon he had a quiet game. Newcastle managed 9 chances, 2 big but the forward players were just not of high enough quality to put them away. The side scored once from an xG of 0.95 and the 10 shots in the box all flatter to deceive, the Magpies were never in this game and a lot of improvement has to be made to consider any attacking or defensive assets from Newcastle.
SOUTHAMPTON (1) VS (2) LIVERPOOL
This game has single-handedly contributed to many teams losing a lot of points but also a huge amount of wildcard activations. The community are discussing if Liverpool double up is incorrect so there is a lot to dissect from this game and Liverpool so far this season. The first bit of advice is something echoed through this article and the last; have faith in your assets, especially those as good as Liverpool’s.
The side have yet to keep a clean sheet in 2019/20 but they are missing their first goalkeeper. The xCon data from Alison’s time at Roma and Liverpool show how important he is at ensuring his side keeps clean sheets. He provided many extra defensive points for the team last season. In terms of the 3 defenders people have in their teams I think the worry should be minimal at the moment. Trent Alexander Arnold has already provided 3 big chances so far this season and an assist, last season he earned the record for most assists by a defender in a season. Van Dijk is the only one that may suffer if there are less clean sheets, but he is competing with the likes of Laporte. Both of these centre backs are huge aerial threats and will get goals this season, Van Dijk has got one already and actually under performed his xG last season. The team put the ball onto him for most dead ball situations so he will get a high number of chances through 2019/20. Finally Robertson is Robertson, it is hard to look past him and Alexander Arnold as these two total justify their price and are better value than midfielders or forwards of the same price. He has so far been unlucky that he hasn’t had an assist but it will come. Patience is a virtue with these high quality players. Liverpool were close to a clean sheet against Southampton, only an Adrian mistake led to Ings scoring. How different the narrative might be then that the team would have had the same clean sheets as Manchester City. So far Liverpool have let in an uncharacteristically large amount of goal attempts, shots in the box and big chances but the fact that it is so surprising is because of the quality of these players. Indeed Everton are the only side with 2 clean sheets so far this season, the team has some good fixtures on the horizon and factoring in their busy schedule plus the loss of Alisson then we feel it is not yet time to panic about one of the best sides in Europe.
Onto Liverpool’s forwards and Mane impressed yet again. He is the highest scoring player of 2019. Salah on the other hand has been pretty anonymous the past couple of games, but he too is not someone to ignore or overlook. Salah was the furthest forward player in the Southampton game and had the highest xG of all the Liverpool forwards. Mane was very creative in this match with 5 chances, 2 big but his 0.15 xG reflects that his goals were of the spectacular variety and not sustainable in the long term. The 78th minute substitution of Salah is rare and it is clear that this busy start of the season has taken its toll on a team coming back from international tournaments over the summer.
On the horizon is a game that usually sparks Liverpool into life, Arsenal. These are traditionally high scoring games and since Klopp has been in charge of the side Liverpool are unbeaten against the Gunners and have scored 25 goals in 7 games against them. Mane, Salah and Firmino seem to love playing against the North London side and Arsenal’s well known poor defensive problems should add even more positivity. The recovery from the European hangover could mean this could be the game that Salah sellers live to regret.
Southampton can count themselves unlucky not to have at least a draw in this match. Their 1.94xG and 9 attempts in the box was impressive showing the proof that Hassenhuttles football style works, the problem was with the quality of players putting the chances away. If Southampton can keep this sort of data up then in games against poorer defences their forwards could be good to have to pick up a few goals. It remains to be seen who is favoured in the frontline with Che Adams and Ings seemingly fighting for the position of striker in the front 2 of the 3-5-2 formation. Redmond this weekend started alongside the preferred striker but even he was not that impressive in this game, but him playing out of position could be an attractive prospect if finishing improve. It is hard to know who to invest in in the Southampton team as value could come in Redmond if he continues up front or it could be better with the slightly cheaper strikers. The key players and starters are not clear yet and the attacking data has not been great so far. But over the next coming weeks a Saints player could emerge as a good bargain, nothing is clear yet though.
MANCHESTER CITY (2) VS (2) TOTTENHAM
The biggest game of the weekend delivered again after last weekend’s top 6 match of Manchester United and Chelsea also had 4 goals.
Tottenham’s attack was non-existent all match but somehow managed to score 2 goals. Similarly to the warning we gave about West ham last week, poor data has to be contextualised as the match was against Manchester City, but the fact that Tottenham only had 3 shots all game is worrying and their poor forward performance the week before might add to doubts over their attacking output. But this weekend Spurs face Newcastle at home and Kane could punish those who do not have him in their sides. It is the type of match that could get Tottenham into top gear. Adding a bit to the Tottenham appeal, Son will be back after his suspension. He will add more options in the attack, more of the width the team has lacked but his 9.5 price tag does mean he is premium and competing with Kevin De Bruyne. The form of the individual players and teams means that the 9.5 seems better spent on the Manchester City midfielder but the next coming weeks could see this mindset change again. But Tottenham look a little shaky at the moment, the quality is there in the side and they made some fantastic signings over the summer. 1 win and 1 draw to start the season on paper sounds good, it is just the manner of the outcomes of these games. However it could just be a slow start and good things could be about to happen for Kane owners.
Man City looked exceptional and were extremely unlucky to not have all 3 points. The team had ridiculous statistics emerging from this gameweek, 30 shots, 22 in the box and a 2.97 xG shows how dominant the Sky Blues were. Kevin De Bruyne was the main instigator to the success of his side with a chance created every 10 mins. 9 chances were created overall, 3 of them were big and he got 2 assists in a game against a formidable top 6 side. City look at their best and De Bruyne looks a steal at 9.5.
SHEFFIELD UNITED (1) VS (0) CRYSTAL PALACE
Sheffield United looked impressive once again as the Blades showed real steel at the back. The side showed the abilities needed to stay up in the Premier League in this match as they gained the lead and were able to shut out Crystal Palace. They limited Palace to just 4 shots on target, 2 shots in the box and an xG of 0.27. This is a Palace side who going into this match were the second highest scoring Premier League side on the road in 2019, only behind Manchester City. But the defence was not the only strength of the side, the Blades also managed the 3rd highest xG of the weekend with 2.18. Sheffield United were a real threat with 10 shots in the box, 10 chances created and 2 big chances in total. The volume of chances was not a problem for the Blades this week and Lundstram was the player that profiteered from this. The out of position defender was playing far up the pitch and was involved in the attack. He created 1 big chance during the game, had 2 shots and had an xG of 0.47. It is all positive stuff for a base level defender. He could genuinely be a starter for many teams over the coming weeks. This game was about the success of Sheffield United and also showed that Palace may struggle a bit more this year. With 15% ownership Zaha has been a popular fantasy choice but he created 1 chance and had 1 shot all match. The Eagles have some difficult games in the next few game weeks as well so the 7.0 spent on him may be better invested elsewhere until things look more positive for Crystal Palace.
CHELSEA (1) VS (1) LEICESTER
Chelsea were once again a team of two different performances in each half. They started the game vibrant, much like against Manchester United but once again the team wilted and fizzled out as the game went on. Leicester once again set up in their uncomfortable formation and Perez looked non-existent. Overall these sides were about equally matched and the draw was a fair result but it does cast doubt over buying players from these two teams. Chelsea’s Mason Mount looks like the most viable option from Chelsea as he has looked brilliant and attacking in the games he has played, the 2 gameweek data shows he has provided 5 chances for team mates, 3 shots in the box and scored against Leicester. At 6.1 he has already garnered interest from the community and Chelsea have a fairly decent run until gameweek 12. But the team has so far looked average at best in these 2 gameweeks. Lampard will need more time to impose his philosophy fully and to see who his best 11 in but the team is not looking great at the moment.
The big disappointment of 2019/20 so far has to be Leicester City who were touted for so much at the start of the season. It is just 2 games but the threat has not been there that we were hoping for. Low scoring games would have been acceptable if a better formation was being deployed and the football being played was more threatening. But the attacking data is nowhere near the top 6 preseason aspirations the side had been expecting, indeed the Foxes data is comparable to that of Watfords in the bottom 5 places of the table rather than vying for top places. A 0.78 xG, 7 shots in the box and only 3 shots on target in 2 games makes worrying reading for premium Vardy owners or even those with money in Madisson and Perez. The only Leicester asset that may be worth it at the moment is their defender Sӧyüncü. He is 4.5 in price and the Foxes seem to be sacrificing their attack for a more hardy defence thus their defensive data is more attractive. But it is early on, there is time for things to improve across the team. However form is not with the side as they enter a more difficult string of matches with difficult away games at Sheffield United, Manchester United and Liverpool plus hosting Tottenham all in their next 6 games.
WOLVES (1) VS (1) MANCHESTER UNITED
This was definitely a game of two halves. In the first Manchester Utd were in total control and it looked like no way into the match for Wolves. But after half time Espirito Santo changed the formation and the team was much more attacking causing United a lot of problems.
Good chances were few and far between for both sides through the match. Wolves and Manchester United were joint 3rd from bottom for chances created for the weekend and Manchester United had only 1 big chance. Seb, and many in the community, have opted to bring Martial in their sides but the fact that he has 2 goals from 3 shots in the box and a 0.81 xG is not convincing. Indeed the Manchester United attacking data really is deceptive. The team has the 3rd highest xG from the first 2 games of 3.33xG but that includes 2 penalties. Taking non-penalty xG into account instead and the data is much more mediocre. The Red Devils are just above the Leicester side that I have just explained my worries about. Manchester United had a buoyant 1st match but over the 2 gameweeks they have managed the 15th best shots in the box, 16th highest total shots and the 16th best xG. The team is not looking like a great attacking powerhouse yet.
In defence Manchester United looked to have improved slightly. It is 2 gameweeks but Wolves were a massive bogey side for the Red Devils last season and over the course of the season so far they have the 2nd lowest xCon just behind their Manchester rivals of City. Wolves have looked poor in attack and there were problems at Chelsea though, so trust in an improved Manchester United defence has to be measured at the moment but there are initial signs of an upward change in quality. But the logic applied to Liverpool should be put here as well, does 2 gameweeks of evidence really counteract the form of last season?
In the match both teams had similar defensive stories. If you factor in xCon without penalties there is only 0.1 difference, both teams had 5 shots in the box conceded and Wolves conceded 3 more chances overall. Wolves were good going forward last season but so far their two games of this season does bring into doubt if Jiminez and Jota should be in peoples teams for the time being. The first half Wolves sat back too much, they played a lot of long balls and Manchester United press worked really well to stifle the abilities of the team to transition into attack Wolves are rock bottom for Non-Penalty xG for the season so far and the team seem to struggle to spark attacks which is reflected in the poor chances created data. This also does bring a worry to the fore about their poor record in being able to beat teams further down the table. The problem seems to remain that if Wolves are closed down and pressured with no time or space to play they cannot get their attack going. The big teams will know this going into games now and Manchester United deployed this well in the first half of the game. Wolves may be in trouble as they cannot rely on beating the top 6 and may struggle against the lower clubs that afford them no space. They have to adapt or they will move down the table.