Hot or Not – Gameweek 25 Preview

Welcome to the second edition of ‘Hot or Not’, the weekly series that helps you identify the most valuable fantasy assets, while also highlighting those best avoided.

Double Gameweek 24 is still very much in motion at the time of writing, with West Ham vs Sheffield United and Chelsea vs Newcastle the last remaining ‘single’ fixtures. In addition, Man City, Everton, Burnley and Fulham are all yet to complete the second half of their ‘doubles’.

In typical FPL fashion we are always looking ahead, with just three days between the end of DGW24 and the deadline for DGW25 it is crucial to get those key decisions wrapped up early.

As with all double gameweeks, the temptation is to load up on assets that play twice. Burnley kept a clean sheet in their first game of DGW24 and look in good shape to deliver more points against Fulham.

Everton, on the other hand, conceded twice against Fulham in game one and now host the rampant Man City in game two. Many looked at the attacking potential of Lucas Digne (£6.1m) and even Michael Keane (£5.1m), but both now find themselves likely to be outscored by single gameweekers Luke Shaw (£5.0m), Lewis Dunk (£4.8m) and Hector Bellerin (£5.1m).

When double gameweeks go well they can yield enormous returns, but not all teams that double will deliver. It’s easy to be distracted by the extra fixture, the task for all FPL managers in the days leading up to DGW25 will be to decide which players and teams are best to attack and which ones are likely to disappoint.

Southampton Defence vs. Single Gameweek Defences

Southampton, along with Leeds, are the only sides to play twice this coming gameweek. Saints have a home fixture against Chelsea, before the two doubling teams face-off at Elland Road.

We are likely to see an influx of transfers in for popular Leeds trio Patrick Bamford (£6.8m), Raphinha (£5.3m) and Stuart Dallas (£4.9m), the attacking upside of the Whites’ assets making them simply too strong to avoid. Even Dallas, somewhat hampered by lack of clean sheet potential, carries such threat that his inclusion is understandable.

Southampton are likely to be popular as well, Alex McCarthy (£4.5m) is still 16.5% owned and Danny Ings (£8.4m) couldn’t have timed his return to form better, with back to back goals against Wolves.

I suspect Ings will feature in a lot of teams this week, of all Southampton assets he is the most likely to return, as such he’s probably as far as I’m willing to invest in their team.

Defenders are notoriously good value in double gameweeks, memories of John Stones’ (£5.2m) 27 point haul in DGW19 are still fresh. The temptation then is to look to the likes of Jannik Vestergaard (£4.7m), Jan Bednarek (£4.9m) or Ryan Bertrand (£5.0m) for a route to a big score.

Unfortunately the numbers suggest this is a plan unlikely to satisfy. Southampton are the worst team in the league for expected goals conceded (xGC) over the last six gameweeks and minutes per xGC (50.1). These defensive struggles have seen them lose six matches in a row in the top flight for the first ever time.

Southampton are also one of the worst sides for shots on target conceded, their total of 34 puts them fifth from bottom over the last six matches.

This makes the prospects of even one clean sheet bleak, particularly given the opposition. Leeds are still the third best side for shots in the box (SiTB) and fifth best side for xG for the season overall, even their recent statistical regression hasn’t lead to a decrease in goals, with ten in their last six matches.

Chelsea are still finding their feet under new manager Thomas Tuchel. The Blues are beginning to show positive signs, with three straight wins and their 60 SiTB over the last six matches suggesting they are well set to get a result against Southampton.

Despite the set piece threat of Bednarek and Vestergaard they remain too much of a gamble, if I wanted to rely on a defender for attacking returns I’d rather stick with Dallas as Leeds are simply in much better form.

There is better value among single gameweek players also, the aforementioned Shaw and Dunk both have plum home ties at home to Newcastle and Crystal Palace respectively. Shaw assisted in DGW24, while Dunk and Brighton kept their fifth clean sheet in their last six games.

Brighton look like a team worth betting on, their xGC of 4.07 puts them third best over the last six gameweeks and against a Palace side who are the worst in the league for xG over the same period you would expect another clean sheet. Palace have consistently been one of the worst teams for conceding from set pieces, an area Dunk excels in.

Dunk also plays in blank gameweek 29, so potentially saves a transfer down the line as well. For those focusing on doubles, Luke Shaw is likely to double in GW26 (with a fixture against Palace), and his GW25 game versus Newcastle looks good for returns.

No defender has created more than Shaw’s 18 chances over the last six gameweeks and his four assists over that period is three more than any other defensive asset.

Man Utd are still among the best attacks in the league, their xG of 12.59 puts them only behind neighbours City over the last six matches. Their defence, while error prone, is still in the top eight for shots conceded and xGC since GW19.

VERDICT: I believe Southampton can turn their form and underlying numbers around, their fixtures turn for the better in the coming weeks. At this stage they are best avoided, even with a double gameweek I believe they are far less certain to deliver than the likes of Dallas and the single-fixture playing Dunk and Shaw.

The lure of the double is strong, but stick to Ings, there’s no need to punt on the defence when much more assured options exist.

Sterling vs. Salah

A real clash of the titans, two of the best FPL assets of the last few years, but who to go for? It seems unthinkable that we are at the stage where Mohamed Salah (£12.6m) is being talked about as expendable, however the collapse of Liverpool has seen major questions asked of their FPL viability.

Raheem Sterling (£11.6m) is beginning to find form after a slow start to the season. Six returns in his last six appearances has seen the England international return to relevance in FPL at a time where many are looking to wildcard.

In my own side it is a question of Salah or Sterling, not both. Is there really a case to jump off double City defence and Salah?

Salah has certainly been out of sorts, with only three returns in his last eleven appearances. This isn’t reflected in the underlying numbers however, Salah is top for SiTB (16) over the last six gameweeks, and his five big chances puts him in the mix with Sterling and Gundogan (£6.0m).

It does appear as though the quality of Salah’s chances are inferior to Sterling’s. He loses out to the City man on xG (3.32 – 3.19), minutes per xG (157.2 – 179.6) and non-penalty xG (3.32 – 2.4) over the last six gameweeks.

Salah (left), Sterling (right) (last six gameweeks)

The disparity, while not huge, is an indication that Sterling is now providing better value. The 1 million saving is attractive, particularly at a time where managers are looking for ways to squeeze Kane and Son in ahead of their double gameweek.

The trajectory of their respective teams couldn’t be further apart, City currently top the Premier League’s form table while Liverpool sit 12th. It is an uncertain time of Merseyside and it’s impossible to speculate on when or if Liverpool will turn their season around.

Liverpool are still posting decent shooting stats, they’re only second to City for SiTB over the last six, however they have only created 14 big chances to City’s 20. It’s a similar story on the xG front, with City again topping the charts while Liverpool sit third.

The eye test doesn’t serve Liverpool well either, it’s obvious that something isn’t clicking and their attacking play looks slow and lethargic compared to the slick Gegenpress that Klopp is famous for. This is reflected in the goals scored column, with Burnley and West Brom both matching Liverpool’s total of eight strikes since GW19.

Now looks to be the perfect time to go differential, if we assume most wildcards will feature Gundogan then partnering him with Sterling is a combination only 24% of FPL’s top 10,000 teams have, compared to the 67% that have Gundogan and Salah.

In Sterling you’re also getting a legitimate captaincy option in a team that still has multiple un-arranged double gameweeks, the upside in points total and in rank chasing is strong.

It is a move for the attacking manager, the risk takers. Bringing in Sterling likely demands a step away from the security of owning double City defence, but from an upside chasing point of view it is easier to replace the six to eight points Dias, Cancelo and Stones are likely to get most weeks than it is to find a player capable of scoring double digits.

VERDICT: Sterling can be streaky, but it appears he is at the beginning of such a streak. Now would be an excellent time to save some money but without compromising and potentially even improving on Salah’s input. A tougher move to make with transfers only, but on wildcard it’s one I will be strongly considering as the extra funds make an optimal team structure easier to achieve.

I will be going through my wildcard thoughts on my twitter @THE_FPL_T throughout the week and looking further at Salah’s place in my selection.

*Underlying statistics and tables obtained via the author’s paid subscription to Fantasy Football Scout*

*Featured Image Source: https://www.nbcsports.com/video/man-citys-raheem-sterling-v-liverpools-mohamed-salah* no copyright intended.

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