In this weekly FPL series, our resident data expert attempts to predict the newest bandwagon according to underlying statistics, formational changes and more. Here, we preview Gameweek 34 of Fantasy Premier League.
After the horror show of GW33, the next gameweek couldn’t start soon enough. With brilliant fixtures in GW34, there will be plenty of opportunities for FPL points, and if recent weeks are anything to go by, these points may come from the strangest of places.
Below, I look at four players who have broken the 100 point mark in FPL this season – Wood, Pereira, Harrison and Calvert-Lewin, and try to predict whether they can continue their fine seasons.
In this section, I evaluate two popular bandwagons currently being jumped on for GW34, and whether they can come good for their new owners…
Among the most transferred in players for GW34 are old favourites and 2020/21 heroes such as Son, Dallas, Kane and Iheanacho. All have recently been explored in bandwagon articles so, instead, I’m focusing on new bandwagons starting up in the form of Chris Wood and Matheus Pereira, both of whom have posted excellent stats for some time now, but have remained major differentials.
One of most ridiculed players in FPL, Wood pops up every season as a differential, but never quite gets the full confidence of the FPL community.
Evaluations of Wood perhaps reflect FPL more than football in general as there is no doubt that he offers so much to how Burnley play. Even so, Wood often seems to get less credit than he deserves.
Wood Goal Threat – 17/18 vs 18/19 vs 19/20 vs 20/21*
Goals: 10 vs 10 vs 14 vs 10
xG: 7.64 vs 9.13 vs 17.23 vs 10.98
xG conversion: +32% vs +10% vs -19% vs -9%
xG per 90: 0.42 vs 0.32 vs 0.63 vs 0.42
*Statistics from Understat
Generally considered a poor finisher, Wood actually converts his shots on par with what you would expect. He also boasts reasonable xG 90 for the striker of a defensive-minded team like Burnley. A large part of a forward’s game is ensuring chances result in quality shots and this is often where Wood struggles. However, within the xG metric, Wood does reasonably.
Forwards – Goal Threat – Last 6 Matches
Numerous forwards have been recording smashing numbers recently – Kane and Iheanacho famously so with 5.26 xG and 4.15 xG over their last 6 matches respectively. But it is Wood who separates these two with an incredible 4.23 xG.
Wood actually records the joint most Big Chances (7), joint most chances (22), the second most shots (25), most shots in the box (17), most shots on target (14) and most penalty area touches (42). These are staggering numbers for Wood, who has averaged a measly 2.24 shots per 90 in his career.
If you watched his game against Wolves, then you will already be hovering over the button to bring in Wood for GW34. His first goal came from an angle that is usually only converted by the likes of Aguero, his second was a tap-in that capped a surprisingly beautiful flowing move, and his hattrick came with a close-range power header.
Wolves were devastated, but can Wood do it again?
History suggests he can’t. He has rarely averaged such a high volume of shots or xG for long. 6 goals in 6 is highly impressive. 4 goals in his previous 27 is horrifying. Last season, between September and November, Wood scored 6 in 6 as well, and went on to get 1 in his next 7 games. He scored 6 in 9 over a patch two seasons ago, and then blanked for 5 games in a row.
This gives me some confidence that Wood has these insane purple patches where impossible things happen, but it also makes me wary of jumping on just as the impossible stops.
Wood Big Chances – GWs2-27 vs GWs28-33
Big Chances Total: 15 vs 7
Big Chances Scored: 2 vs 4
Big Chance Conversion: 13% vs 57%
Burnley Big Chances Created: 35 vs 11
It seems Burnley have produced a significant number recently, and a large proportion of these have gone to Wood – both of which are encouraging signs. However, Burnley having 4 Big Chances against Wolves and 2 of those going to Wood suggests that one game may be skewing the numbers slightly.
I suspect we will see a drop in Wood’s Big Chances, and a slight regression in Wood’s conversion of Big Chances (something he is historically poor at).
West Ham, Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield United are all promising ties with suspect defences. Having said that, all of these teams come with their own challenges. West Ham, Fulham, Leeds and Liverpool will dictate a lot of the play, limiting Burnley’s opportunities. Going direct may work with West Ham and Liverpool still suffering from injury problems, but these chances will be few and far between, and ultimately rely on Wood getting the support around him, which won’t happen if Burnley are under the cosh.
VERDICT – SWERVE
I wish I’d jumped on Wood before. He did have good numbers, and there was a lot to like about his performances. The hattrick is likely to see Wood’s confidence stay high for the rest of the season, but it may be a case of chasing points. I see Burnley’s fixtures being decidedly difficult with West Ham and Liverpool fighting for Champions League spots, Fulham fighting to stay in the Prem, and Leeds putting in defensive masterclass after defensive masterclass at home this season.
Pereira was highlighted by every West Brom fan throughout pre-season, and few people listened. 132 points makes him the 4th highest-scoring sub-£6m midfielder. More impressive still is that fact Pereira has 100 points since the turn of the year – the 4th most of any player in FPL.
Pereira has nonetheless avoided any serious interest from FPL players except perhaps in DGW19 and, of course now after collecting 42 points in 4 games. The reason for this is actually quite straight forward – he usually blanks. Below is Pereira’s season summarised. Each ‘B’ represents a blank, each ‘R’ a return, each ‘D’, a double-digit score, and each ‘I’ an injury.
B D B B B B B I B B B I I I R B B D R B D B B B B B B B B D R B D
What can be seen is that Pereira scores his points all at once – 87 points in 7 GWs. When returning, Pereira has only failed to get a double-digit score on 3 occasions. In 25 GWs this season, Pereira has recorded scores of between -2 and 3.
FPL players are perhaps a little conservative when it comes to risk, at least for new players who are also differentials outside the top 6. Not only that, Pereira has played in a season that has flaunted a wealth of low-budget midfield options who can offer returns more often than every 4th GW.
Midfielders – Goal Threat Last 6 Matches
Unlike the forwards who have been posting ridiculous numbers, midfielders have dropped off somewhat in the last 2 GWs. Salah leads every single category, has fixtures to dream of, and top 4 and golden boot to fight for. Next to him, Bruno and Son look decidedly over-priced.
JWP, Pereira and Jota head up a golden group of low-budget options, each posting an xG over 2 and 3 or more Big Chances. However, Pereira is much more similar to JWP than he is Jota, who seems to be in and around almost every chance Liverpool create at the moment. JWP and Pereira have both been boosted by having 3 and 2 penalties respectively over the last 6 matches, which account for most of their Big Chances and xG.
Penalties aside, neither Pereira, nor JWP would come close to this table of top-performing midfielders for goal threat. Southampton have averaged a penalty every 6 games: West Brom one every 11 games. On balance, West Brom are unlikely to be able to bolster Pereira’s numbers with another 2 penalties in the remaining 5 games.
Without penalties, Pereira has fewer than a third of the shots in the box (4) that Salah (18), Jota (17), Mane (17) and Greenwood (17) have, and fewer than half as many touches in the box (17 vs 50, 41, 40 and 35 respectively).
Midfielders Creativity – Last 6 Matches
Pereira looks better in terms of creativity than goal threat. His 3 Big Chances Created are joint 3rd most among midfielders over the 6 match period and these have earnt Pereira 2 assists. Pereira does reasonably well in chance creation (13), successful crosses (8), key passes (11) and xA (1.3). Unfortunately, the reality is that none of these numbers stand out massively.
Pereira has created fewer chances than other budget midfielders such as McNeil and Raphinha. Pereira’s lack of through balls also hints at part of West Brom’s problem – they struggle to get in behind defences, and so many of the chances Pereira creates end up leading to low xG shots from poor positions.
A series of robust defences make West Brom assets less attractive. It’s true that predicting defensive performance has been difficult this season, with each of the above teams guilty of conceding an array of chances in bad weeks. Nonetheless, you’d expect most of these teams to keep West Brom at bay.
VERDICT – SWERVE
Pereira is likely to return again before the end of the season – he’s averaged a return every 2 matches, but the fixtures aren’t kind, and at this stage in the season, it is very difficult holding a player who often blanks 5+ GWs in a row before returning.
In this section, I look ahead to anticipate who will be the two biggest bandwagons in GW35.
Leeds have been the neutral’s favourite team this year, buoyed by Bielsa Ball. Bamford, Dallas, Ayling, Phillips, Raphinha and others have had their share of the limelight. The first two in particular have outshone many expectations. Less has been said about Harrison, who quietly goes about his business – similar to Pereira above – and keeps posting decent returns.
Harrison has 7 goals and 7 assists this season, despite costing less than £6m and averaging only 73 minutes per GW. He is a highly talented player, who like Raphinha on the other side, often looks to carry Leeds’ goal threat as Bamford suffocates under opponent’s centre backs.
A goal and 3 assists in 4 games underscores Harrison’s potential as a bandwagon.
Midfielders Goal Threat – Last 6 Matches
At first glance, Harrison’s numbers may look underwhelming, but even in this group of recent high-performers, there are some encouraging signs. Ignoring penalties, Harrison’s xG outperforms Bruno, JWP, Pereira, Son and Siggy. Harrison’s 3 Big Chances and 26 penalty area touches are both reasonable for someone not playing for a top 6 side.
Harrison shows a remarkable efficiency with shooting, getting 4 of his 7 shots on target, and scoring once. This efficiency is reflected in his xG conversion rate, which Understat place at +20% (small sample size), which suggests that Harrison has been unlucky recently with his shooting.
Leeds’ Players – Goal Threat Last 6 Matches
Leeds have one of the best run-ins, and many will be looking at bringing in multiple Leeds assets. Dallas, Raphinha and Bamford will naturally be among the most popular choices, but Harrison deserves a look in. Raphinha just barely edges Harrison for Goal Threat, and definitely outperforms him for creativity. However, Harrison has proven incredibly reliable at converting good play into returns – something that often alludes Raphinha.
Not only that, but Harrison is currently performing similarly to Bamford for threat, posting a higher xG and similar numbers of Big Chances (3 vs 4), the same number of chances (both 8), and more shots on target (4 vs 3).
This fixture run is a dream with multiple teams who struggle to defend, especially against teams with the relentless energy of Leeds. Brighton and Burnley may look tricky, but Leeds are more potent away from home, which also makes the Southampton game look particularly targetable. Home games against a dodgy Spurs defence, and West Brom look encouraging. By GW38, West Brom may be going for broke, or may be playing with the freedom (and gaps) of a team already relegated.
VERDICT – SWERVE
Silly really for me to write so much about a player I can’t quite fully recommend. I try to only suggest players I am genuinely eager to bring in, but Harrison remains a question mark for me. The fixtures and performances are there, but transfers are at a premium, and I’m not sure I’d like my last hurrah to be on a player with only two double-digit hauls all season.
Certainly one to watch, and to target should you be in sudden need of a £5.5m enabler.
One of my favourite players to watch this season, DCL has been a massive part of Everton’s success, and has gone a considerable way to proving many doubters wrong by developing his game. His one-touch finishing, runs into the box and hold-up play have all improved. He has impressed people so much that he is now second only to Kane as forwards for England, towering – like one of his headers – above rivals Watkins and Bamford.
After a game or two to recover from his latest injury set-back, DCL looks primed to smash the last 5 GWs… if he can just find his early season form.
Forwards – Goal Threat Last 6 Matches
It is troubling to see DCL record so few chances from open play (9) and take so few shots (11). Yet, the key thing is quality. 10 of Calvert Lewin’s 11 shots have been in the box, and 6 of his chances have been Big Chances.
These Big Chances have come at a similar rate to what DCL is used to, with DCL receiving 21 Big Chances across the prior 21 GWs. In this time, DCL scored 13 goals compared to the single goal he has scored in his last 6 matches.
Encouragingly, the number of Big Chances per match has been maintained, but worryingly, DCL is converting at a much lower rate. Such is the quality of a Big Chance that you’d expect this trend to reverse. In any case, a player who is likely to have as many as 6 Big Chances in the next 5 GWs is one to target.
Despite posting lower numbers by DCL’s standards, I find this encouraging. As bad as Everton have played – and they have played some dire stuff recently – DCL still finds excellent goal-scoring opportunities.
I expect Everton to improve as they make a late push for a respectable finish, and so DCL’s xG of 2.38 in 6 matches could easily inflate back to the 0.61 xG 90 that DCL has averaged this season (according to Understat).
For me, a large part of DCL’s appeal is in his extra fixture – likely to go in GW35. The opponents are also kind. Villa haven’t kept a clean sheet in 6 games; West Ham are suffering some injury-related defensive issues; Sheffield United; and Wolves have struggled against strong, direct number 9s recently (Chris Wood).
VERDICT – JUMP ON
DCL is the perfect combination for a late season punt. He plays poor defences and has a DGW. He is a potentially explosive player, who is returning to his best. He has been receiving sacks full of Big Chances, and is a player of proven pedigree. And finally… he isn’t highly owned.
I really like DCL as a differential. There is a risk in that many other forwards are doing well, but the additional GW should mean DCL is a profitable move. I’ll certainly be looking at him for GW35.
Thank you for reading!
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If I get calls wrong, let me know about it!
All statistics are taken from FFScout (which I have a paid subscription to) unless indicated otherwise.
Total Assists includes Assists and Fantasy Assists
Graphics taken from Fantasy Premier League’s site.