As we approach the climactic end of the season, we have one final chance to chase down mini-league rivals, reach our target ranks or smash home a three digit score. For those willing to take a final gamble in a high-risk, high-reward shot at achieving your goals, here are some exciting one-week punts that may just explode.
Above almost every option in the game, towers Mane (metaphorically that is). Only Salah looks a better option, and given their similar numbers, Mane lends himself as an explosive alternative for those ready to risk it all. If you can double up, the fun truly begins…
Premium Midfielders – Last 6 Matches
Over the last 6 matches, Mane’s xG is 2.48, which is 3rd among premium midfielders; his xA is 1.19 (5th best) and his xGI is 3.67 (3rd best). Over this period, Mane’s output has reflected his underlying numbers with 2 goals and 2 assists, however, it is Mane’s Big Chance involvement that really makes him stand out.
Mane has received 5 Big Chances over the last 6 matches and created an additional 3, which ranks him as 3rd best among Premium midfielders and joint best, respectively. In total, only Salah (9) has been involved in more Big Chances.
Mane’s 13 chances created, 12 shots inside the box and 44 penalty area touches are also ridiculously impressive.
Fixture – Palace (Home)
It’s very difficult to evaluate Palace as a team because they are wildly inconsistent – they can throw in halves of football where they look dire and disinterested, but then follow it up with an impressive and dominating second half, like we saw against Villa in GW36.
However, they are one of the weaker teams in the Prem defensively, conceding 12 goals (joint 2nd worst), 8.48 xG (9th worst), 10 Big Chances (12th worst), 18 chances down the left (9th worst).
Given Liverpool’s potent attack, and their serious need to win and by as many goals as possible, it is almost irrelevant how good or bad Palace’s defence is. That said, Palace’s numbers hint at goals, so this definitely looks like a fixture to target.
Trent and Robertson are other stand-out picks for attacking this fixture. Alongside Dallas and Cresswell/Coufal they look the best options for defence in GW38.
For most of us, Mane represents a premium slot and a transfer used. The opportunity cost is steep, especially if it involves going without highly-owned premiums like Bruno and Salah who are also posting excellent numbers.
VERDICT – Fair Risk, High Reward
While there’s no getting away from the risk of transferring out a premium option, Mane’s underlying numbers are hugely encouraging. There is every reason to think he can equal or even improve on these numbers against an inconsistent Palace team.
With a smatter of luck, Mane might see all of his Big Chance involvements converted, more of his chances created turn to ‘Bruno’ assists, and also some more output from his high levels of shots inside the box, which have bizarrely led to so few shots on target in recent weeks.
Yet another exciting young prospect has risen above the gloom of Arsenal’s abject season, and is posting some of the best stats in the game.
Selected Midfielders – Last 6 Matches
The above list covers a range of different midfield options of interest – all of them rank in the top for either xG or xA among non-Premium midfielders in the last 6 matches. They also have good fixtures and a reason to keep fighting in the final game of the season – whether it’s for a place in Europe as with West Ham, Arsenal, Leeds and Chelsea, their future in Pereira and Willock, or making up for lost time in Saint-Maximin.
Although Willock tops this list of differentials with his xG of 3.15, it is Martinelli that I’d like to look at – after all, it’s hardly worth reading an article if it’s only going to impart such nuggets of wisdom as players who have scored in 6 successive games make a good pick.
Like Willock, Martinelli has had managed minutes over recent weeks, and yet still managed to post excellent underlying numbers. Martinelli has 3 attacking returns from an xGI of 4.28. Only Salah (4.85) boasts a higher xGI over his last 6 matches. By comparison, Willock has 6 returns from an xGI of 3.27. We can see Martinelli has been unfortunate or wasteful, while Willock has been lucky or clinical. Regression to the mean is likely, but not necessarily due.
Apart from these promising signs, Martinelli has also taken 10 shots on target and made 31 penalty area touches (both 6th best among non-premium midfielders). Not only this, but Martinelli has received 4 Big Chances (joint 2nd best of non-premium mids), and created 3 Big Chances (joint 3rd best of non-premium mids).
Fixture – Brighton (Home)
Brighton are one of the best defensive teams in the league, combining numerous qualities of a top side from their general tendency to dictate possession, the low-quality chances they give up and the presence of an excellent shot-stopper.
Brighton have conceded 7 Big Chances over the last 6 matches, which is the joint 3rd best in the league; their xGC of 5.87 is the 4th best in the league, and their 6 goals conceded is the 6th best in the league.
However, Brighton have made 3 errors leading to chances, which is the joint 4th most in the league; they have also conceded 21 chances down the right (10th most), and failed to keep a clean sheet in 4 of their games. For all the positives around Brighton, they do have a knack for throwing away clean sheets, and they are particularly vulnerable where Martinelli operates.
Brighton and Arsenal as a game will be an intriguing battle of tactics, which has happened to both teams frequently this season whenever they have faced opponents who also strive to hold the ball. This opens up the possibility of a defender punt like Tierney to steal the day if it does finish 0-0 and the defenders are fighting out the bonus points based on passing and chance creation numbers.
Martinelli costs us a transfer and basically nothing else as he’s only £4.9m. He works as a fantastic enabler if you have need a way to upgrade another player.
However, game time is the main risk. He has been posting the kind of numbers that usually force managers to play them, which we’ve most recently witnessed in Willock and Nacho. Just like these two players, it can take a long time for a manager to take the plunge. Arteta is particularly frustrating, because he regularly rotates form players out of his XI as we’ve seen all season with the likes of Laca, Saka and Smith-Rowe.
Martinelli has played a part in 8 of Arsenal’s last 9 games, but has started only 4. He has averaged a paltry 41 minutes per game over this period. Nonetheless, I think Martinelli should start this weekend. He is boasting by far the best attacking numbers of the whole Arsenal team, and Arsenal need to win to have any hopes of qualifying for Europe.
VERDICT – High Risk, Fair Reward
Martinelli’s numbers are excellent, and despite a tricky opponent, he has a very good chance of delivering a return or two. It is worth bearing in mind that Martinelli’s numbers are comparable to players averaging twice his game time. Should Martinelli complete 90 minutes, and maintain his underlying numbers, he would have seriously explosive potential.
However, he is not for the faint-hearted. There’s a strong chance – perhaps as high as 50% – of him not starting, and your final transfer of the season being wasted.
In the Antonio vs Bamford dilemma, Wood seems to have bizarrely faded out of attention. Possibly a feature of recency bias in that the other two just scored in good team performances, and Wood just blanked in a dismantling by Liverpool.
Top Performing Forwards – Last 6 Matches
Difficult games face Kane, Nacho and Vardy, although none of them should be written off as they are all capable of scoring in any game. Benteke faces a seemingly impossible game against Liverpool, however, his underlying numbers have been excellent recently, and he has made considerable strides to silence his critics. The need for Liverpool to score is likely to leave them open to counter attack, and Benteke is in the form to punish turnovers. Keep an eye on injury news, however, as he appears to have a minor issue with his Achilles.
Putting these players to one side, leaves Antonio, Wood and Bamford. While there’s a serious case for all 3, it is Wood that we’re looking at here. Wood has scored the most goals (5), received the most Big Chances (7), collected the second highest xG (3.42) and is the only player definitely on penalties.
Fixture – Sheffield United (Home)
The relegated Sheffield United are in freefall without Wilder. Their xGC of 10.46 over the last 6 matches is the 5th worst in the league, their 15 Big Chances Conceded is the 2nd worst and their 30 chances conceded through the centre is the 3rd worst. And most importantly of all, they have conceded a league-worst 24 headed attempts. This is definitely among the very best fixtures to target, and considering his recent goal-scoring prowess, Wood looks an excellent way to exploit this match-up.
McNeil is another way to attack this game, and he has been excellent creatively, setting up 4 Big Chances in his last 6 matches. That said, he is very much an out-there pick.
The opportunity cost of not having Bamford or Antonio is troubling because it seems likely that at least one of this trio is going to have an explosive gameweek. If you have more than one of them, you will be in an excellent position to end the season with aplomb.
If you are weighing up one of these three, there are two things that give Wood the edge – the opponent, and his recent tendency to get shots off. A concern watching many forwards is that they get in excellent positions and then fail to capitalise. Wood consistently posts respectable xG90 because he does generally get off some kind of goal-bound shot, rather than over-elaborate. This is best exemplified by his shots on target (10) over the last 6 matches to be almost as many as Antonio (4) and Bamford (7) have managed combined.
VERDICT – Fair Risk, High Reward
There is a notable opportunity cost for some of us in selecting Wood, but the potential for a double return is certainly there. With so few other point-scorers in either Burnley or Sheffield United, it seems likely that if Wood does score, he’ll also mop up bonus points.
If you’re in the blessed position of already sitting on BamBam or the Herculean Antonio, then picking up Wood is almost a no-brainer.
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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.