Predicting the Bandwagon – GW27 Preview

In this weekly series, our resident data expert attempts to predict the newest bandwagon according to underlying statistics, formational changes and more. Here, we preview FPL Gameweek 27.

by @FPL_FIDGET

The horrifying swings of GW26 are still in motion, and all hangs in the air. Even before we know our starting point, we need to look to GW27 and figure out how to stay ahead of the game.

In this section, I evaluate the three most popular bandwagons currently being jumped on for GW27, and whether they can come good for their new owners…

Lingard is by some way the most popular transfer for GW27 so far with over 100,000 new managers bringing him in.

At an average of 7.5 points per game, Lingard’s loan move to West Ham has seen him earn 39 points in 6 games. If the points and the performances that go with them weren’t enough, memories of Lingard’s former life will have made managers drool at the prospect of having such a player for just £6.0m.

Lingard comes with the pedigree of a goal involvement every other game across his Premier League career. And, in the 2017/18 season, when Lingard was given the most minutes, he averaged a fantasy return every 129 minutes.

His move to West Ham means for the first time, he will be getting serious minutes, and playing in an attacking team. Can he take the opportunity to prove his critics wrong?

Lingard Per 90 – career average vs 2017/18 vs 2020/21*

G: 0.24 vs 0.39 vs 0.61

xG: 0.27 vs 0.39 vs 0.28

Shots: 2.2 vs 2.75 vs 3.24

Shots in Box: 1.27 vs 1.72 vs 1.61

A: 0.13 vs 0.25 vs 0.2

xA: 0.14 vs 0.18 vs 0.28

*All numbers taken from Understat.com

The above highlights a few aspects of Lingard’s recent performances.

Firstly, he is averaging a similar xG90 (0.28) to his career numbers (0.27). Secondly, he is outperforming his xG significantly, which stands at odds to the rest of his career (converting 0.28 xG per 90 into 0.61 goals per 90). Finally, Lingard has been significantly more creative (0.28 xA90) than he has averaged across his career (0.14 xA90).

There are numerous potential reasons for the upturn, no doubt confidence being a chief one, but it is important to look at whether these numbers can be sustained.

Passes Received Heat Map 2017/18 vs 2020/21

I’ve chosen to compare to the 17/18 season not just because it was Lingard’s best season, but because it was the season where he played the most minutes in a single position (as a CAM).

Although the sample size for this season’s data is small, it does look like Lingard has a much more defined position and role on the pitch than he did at United. In defence, he presses on the left between the box and the the halfway line, and his recovery heatmaps also burn red here as he has made numerous recoveries from this area of the pitch.

Transitioning into attack, he often receives the ball just before the halfway line on the left or in the centre circle. In sustained attacks, he can drift to the right, but largely features along the left.

This season, Lingard has also popped up in the penalty area a lot more often than the 2017/18 heat map suggests he did at United.

Dribble Heat Map 2017/18 vs 2020/21 (successful ones in green)

Similar to what we’ve just seen, the above 2020/21 heat map shows Lingard in a much more fixed position from game to game, generally attempting dribbles on the left of the pitch. After receiving the ball (often on the left), it seems Lingard is trusted to dribble to create opportunities for this team (roughly 5 take ons per 90), doing so almost twice as often as he did in the 2017/18 season for United (roughly 2.6 per 90).

I checked through all of Lingard’s seasons at United, and the same spread of positions and various actions can be seen on Lingard’s heat maps to the one seen above in the 17/18 season. Even in Lingard’s most successful season at United, Lingard’s versatility meant that he played wherever necessary.

In comparison, at West Ham, he has been entrusted with a set role, which may be part of why he is producing career-high numbers in some metrics. Overall, Lingard is being used differently at West Ham, staying predominately on the left, and being asked to make more dribbles, play the final ball into the forwards, and get into the box.

Lingard Goal Threat vs mid-budget mids – their last 6 matches

This GW has seen a major shift in options in this area of midfield. Barnes’ unfortunate injury means many managers will be looking for one of the options in the above table or the likes of Gross, Neves or Lookman who didn’t quite make it to the table.

Lingard and Jota do stand out in both their goals (3 and 4 respectively) and xG conversion rates (both overperforming by 40%). However this overperformance is a concern, particularly for players who historically have performed roughly in line with their xG. Jota has accumulated a massive 4 Big Chances, which does hint at the quality of chances Jota has had.

Of the above though, it is one of our players of the season – Raphinha, and also Mount who standout as options. Both have 2 goals, 2 Big Chances, a reasonable conversion of xG and 30 or more penalty area touches.

Lingard Creativity vs mid-budget mids – their last 6 matches

Again Lingard roughly matches Jota, but falls below leading numbers. Raphinha is the best with 5 Big Chances and an xA of 2.32. Neto and Saka also perform favourably.

While Lingard performs reasonably well in both goal threat and creativity, he is definitely below at least Raphinha and probably Saka and Neto in the shopping list.

Upcoming Fixtures

West Ham’s games are reasonably favourable until the games against Wolves and Leicester, which will challenge their creativity. Unfortunately, Lingard is ineligible to play in GW28 as it’s against his parent club, but he does play in BGW29, which more than makes up for the blank (in which you would have likely chosen to bench him regardless).

Verdict – SWERVE

As a United fan, I want to see Lingard do well, and even want to share in the glories of his success.

However, the fixtures – particularly the GW28 blank – are far from appealing. His numbers, are not strong enough to warrant a disregard of fixtures, especially as they hinge on a significant xG overperformance.

I will be watching Lingard, and if the likes of Saka and Neto drop off, I’ll be looking at him for GW29, but until then, I’ll be avoiding.

While Bale is only the 6th most transferred in player ahead of GW27, he is the second most transferred in non-City player. Naturally, Gundogan (recommended in the GW24 article) and KDB (recommended in the GW26 article) continue to be popular, even if how they will effect each other’s game time and positioning remains unclear. Similarly, Stones and Dias are rightly popular shouts for their DGW.

Bale, however, is a new prospect for FPL managers and is worth exploring as an early GW27 bandwagon.

Bale Career vs 20/21 – Per 90*

G: 0.57 vs 0.78

xG: 0.5 vs 0.5

Shots: 3.74 vs 3.87

A: 0.25 vs 0.52

xA: 0.27 vs 0.21

Key Passes: 1.68 vs 1.81

*Since 2014/15, taken from Understat.com based

What is clear from the above is how in-keeping Bale’s numbers are with his career stats. Identical xG90 (0.5), similar xA90 (0.27 vs 0.21), Shots per 90 (3.74 vs 3.87) and Key Passes per 90 (1.68 vs 1.81).

Bale is currently overperforming his xG, but this is hardly new for him. While we may expect this overperformance to regress slightly, his overperformance of xA may continue as he is playing alongside two of the most potent finishers in the Prem (Son and Kane).

The numbers above are incredibly encouraging, even if we assume that Bale regresses to his expected numbers. There are few players in the game who achieve an xGI of 0.7 or more, and do so with the consistency of Bale.

Outside of the league, Bale has a slightly larger sample size, scoring 4 goals and creating 1 assist in his 247 minutes. These games were against lower quality opposition than he will face in the league, but clearly his confidence is building.

Bale passes the eye-test, the numbers are there and his pedigree gives further encouragement.

Bale’s Minutes

The other major concern about Bale will be his minutes, which have been incredibly limited this season. Knee problems kept him out of 6 games when he first arrived at Spurs, and once he’d recovered his cameos across October and November, largely from the bench, hinted at a concerning lack of sharpness.

Other injuries, including a calf problem kept him out of further games in December, and presumably set back his return to fitness.

Bale’s Minutes First 10 Available Games vs Second 10 vs Last 8

When available, Bale has averaged similar numbers of minutes across the season, although he has seen more Premier League minutes recently (133 minutes of the last 270).

For me, this is highly worrying. When I started looking at Bale’s minutes, I really hoped to see a gradual build up of minutes, but I just can’t see it. Perhaps we are at the beginning of Bale’s run in the team, and we can get on him early. However, Mourinho’s fiercely defiant nature makes this a risk.

Mourinho is not the sort to give in to external pressures to play a star player if that player doesn’t fit the bill for what he needs tactically, and he certainly won’t rush to get a player struggling for fitness into his XI.

However, my expectation is that once Bale comes into the team regularly, he will quickly become nailed as Mourinho rarely rotates key players. We just need a few GWs to know if this is on the verge of happening, or if this is just another false dawn from Mourinho.

Upcoming Fixtures

The fixtures are highly appealing with Palace and Newcastle favourable for any attack. Arsenal, Villa and United are also more enticing then they have been. And finally, the fixture in BGW29 is a major reason why some investment in Spurs attack looks necessary.

Verdict – HOLD

This is exactly the kind of pick I love. Bold. Risky. Highly explosive.

Bale looks sublime once more, but his lack of game time remains the concern. Should he get minutes in the upcoming GWs, I’ll be looking at Bale over almost any other premium for BGW29.

Until then, I’m not going to set myself up for the pain of seeing an expensive player benched.

If you’re ready for such a boom or bust scenario, you may look at Bale differently, and want to give him in ASAP. If you have already taken the risk for GW26, you can bank those 17 points and count yourself as a genius for moving when you did!

The world-class maverick that is Son has earnt himself over 30,000 new owners after his 11 point haul against Burnley. And in fairness to him, he was unlucky not to have more.

I moved Son on last GW, not out of doubt of his quality, but with an eye to breaking the template when others were holding a player so desperately out of form. It was Son who broke me as I walked in circles around the lake at Virginia Water and wondered at the choices I’d made in my life.

As with any sudden change in form, a single game tells us nothing, and we will gratefully clutch at Spurs’ second game of GW26 to answer our questions: is Son back? Have Spurs regained some attacking confidence? Can Bale be the final piece of puzzle?

Premium Midfielders’ Threat – Their Last 6 Matches

Sterling, Bruno and Salah justify their hefty price tags with 4 goals each, and Auba crashes the party with his 5 goals from seemingly nowhere. A perusal of the xG column further highlights the ever-present threat of Sterling and Salah (3.95 and 3.98 respectively), and Auba’s renaissance (3.35 xG).

The xG conversion rates has Bruno continue to disregard even Messi standards of xG mockery. Once more Auba stands out with his 49% overperformance, which is reminiscent of the 35% overperformance last season, that ‘saved’ Arsenal’s season.

I could talk at length about how great Salah, Sterling and Auba look, but I can’t even get started on Son. His early-season worldie finishes have disappeared (he boasts a reasonable xG overperformance of 9%), his penalty area touches are down to less than 3 a game and he has a single Big Chance in 6 games.

Premium Midfielders’ Creativity – Last 6 Matches

In creativity, Son does better with 3 Big Chances created, an xA of 0.87 and 2 assists. However, these numbers are still not premium level – so much so that Son would come 6th for xA in the table of mid-priced midfielders explored earlier in this article.

Son may be cheaper than other premiums, but he is performing below even the standard of the hottest budget players at the moment.

Upcoming Fixtures

There can be little doubt that the fixtures are agreeable. None of these teams are particularly solid defensively. Villa are constantly indebted to their keeper, United love a mistake and the other three teams have as much consistency as unstirred gravy.

Son may well relish playing against the stronger teams as they attempt to dominate the ball and leave ample space behind. For example, Son vs Maguire is a horrifying prospect for United fans everywhere.

Then there is the advantage of a fixture in BGW29.

What Son lacks in form, he more than makes up for in fixtures.

Verdict – HOLD

Given the fixtures, I wouldn’t be selling Son if he were to magically re-appear in my team. However, I can’t condone bringing him back in, especially as free transfers are few and far between, and there are currently a catalogue of major FPL differential premiums to pick from.

My thoughts are that targeting City for GW27 allows me another GW to assess Son, Kane, Bale and also Auba. I would then look to have 2-3 of these for BGW29. If you own him I would hold, but if you do not, consider other potential options before returning to the dynamic South Korean.

In this section, I look ahead to anticipate who will be the biggest bandwagons in GW28.

Before my Weekly Series started, I wrote a sample article for FPL Raptor (Ross), and I swear it was essentially a two-page love letter for this man Antonio. He is everything I love in a striker. And everything defences hate in one.

Despite continued heroics, Antonio is being overlooked for GW27. He sits in a measly 10.5% of squads. I’m almost in despair wondering how.

But I know it’s just a case of fixtures. He only had one in GW26, and his unexpected absence from GW24 rocked a lot of managers’ faith. Rest assured though, Antonio is back and waiting to punish the doubters.

Antonio Goal Threat vs anyone you care to mention – last 8GWs

Goals: 4 (1st)

xG: 6.54 (1st)

Big Chances Scored: 4 (1st)

Big Chances Total: 8 (1st)

Shots: 22 (3rd)

Shots on Target: 9 (2nd)

Penalty Area Touches: 35 (8th)

Antonio’s numbers are incredible, especially as he missed a game over this period. He performs well even in penalty area touches, a metric beneath Antonio whose pace, strength and touch mean that he works himself and the ball into the middle of the goal in as few touches as possible.

Antonio’s Shots Since GW19

Looking at this graphic of Antonio’s shots over his last 8 games, it’s no wonder that he accumulates ridiculous xG. He has a propensity for getting the ball central before shooting, and often navigates himself into the box or even the 6-yard box.

Leading Forwards, Goal Threat Per 90 – Since GW19

Antonio’s xG 90 embarrasses those around him (0.86 vs the next best of 0.46), but such is his poor conversion that he only just pips Kane as the most potent striker of the group (0.53 vs Kane’s 0.52).

The underlying numbers are, however, encouraging. Antonio’s recent shooting may not be highly accurate, but he is receiving impressive numbers of Big Chances (1.05 per 90), and his conversion rate of those high quality chances is good (50%).

To put into context, DCL’s 0.71 Big Chances per 90 is enough for many of us to prioritise bringing him in, stretching happily to £7.8m. Antonio is far surpassing this number, and he is a decent whack cheaper.

According to Understat, Antonio historically performs according to his xG, converting 36 goals from an xG of 37.01 across his previous 5 seasons (underperformance of 2.3%). This season’s major underperformance of 7 goals from 10.01 xG is in comparison, a whopping 30% underperformance.

My expectation is that if Antonio can see the end of the fitness problems that have kept him out for much of this season, then his run in the side will bring with it a return to his clinical best.

Leading Forwards, Creativity Per 90 – Since GW19

Antonio is no one-trick pony. Unsatisfied by wiping the floor with his opposition in goal threat, he turns it on again in creativity. He leads the way in Total Assists Per 90 (0.39) and xA 90 (0.12). He also creates the number of Big Chances (0.26 per 90) that would abase most midfielders’ manhoods.

Upcoming Fixtures

West Ham have shown already this season that they can play anyone, and FPL’s Fixture Difficulty Rating system just hasn’t caught up with that. While goals against Wolves and Leicester may be hard, Antonio’s run is favourable.

Crucially, Antonio has a game in BGW29, which means he’ll be fighting it out with Kane, Watkins, Bamford and maybe Lacazette for one of the three Forward spots. While cases can be made for each, and most managers will want the security of a premium in Kane, the form of Antonio makes him hard to ignore.

Verdict – JUMP (bring him in)

Antonio doesn’t just deliver, he delivers majestically, and in doing so he is one of those players whose FPL points you will irrationally relish above others.

In my team, I have Watkins and Bamford and can’t use a transfer moving around BGW players. DCL takes up my final spot, and I’ll be holding him in the hope of a DGW. However, DCL will make way for Antonio for GW29.

For those of you in a different position, you could move early to take advantage of the delicious Leeds game. Or you may have a headache on your hands in picking between Kane and Antonio.

Regardless of when you can bring him in though, Antonio gets the ‘Jump’ rating from me.

A player no one seems to be talking about.

But should they be?

The Spurs left back has recently missed 5 games to injury, but his return has lifted Spurs and revealed some rather disturbing statistics about their defence.

Spurs’ Defence

With Reguilón on the pitch, Spurs have conceded 0.73 goals per 90 minutes, compared to 1.49 without him. They’ve also kept 0.44 clean sheets per 90 with him, and only 0.27 without him.

Worse still, on two occasions (away to Palace and Wolves) when Reguilón was subbed off towards the end of the game, Spurs threw away crucial 1-0 leads to a late goal. But don’t fear: Reguilón’s clean sheets points remained intact.

Spurs’ Defensive Numbers – Season (Rank)

Goals Conceded: 27 (5th)

xGC: 30.71 (9th)

Clean Sheets: 8 (Joint 9th)

Shots in Box Conceded: 211 (14th)

Shots on Target Conceded: 101 (10th)

Big Chances Conceded: 32 (2nd)

Spurs have largely good defensive numbers, but with Reguilón on the pitch these numbers significantly improve. His defensive contribution cannot easily be spotted in the usual defensive metrics of tackles, blocks, interceptions etc. It occurs to a large extent further up the pitch as he allows Spurs to sustain attacks and provides another option for Spurs to hurt teams with.

Reguilón’s flexibility has seen his role for Spurs change over recent weeks as he has often started games as a LM, which does hint at the possibility of great attacking potential.

Reguilón first 7 starts vs last 7

Hopefully apparent in the two heat maps above is that Reguilón is operating less in defence and is running the line more, getting further into the opposition’s half.

This is encouraging for potential owners who will be wanting to see how Reguilón compares to the numerous other defenders who have enjoyed camping in the opposition’s half this season.

Selected Defenders, Attacking Threat per 90 – Season

Having an xG on par with Cancelo hints that Reguilón is getting some decent opportunities to shoot, and his 0.28 Big Chances Created per 90 is exciting, especially in a Spurs team with so many talented finishers.

Reguilón is not blowing us away with incredible xGI in the way that Trent, Cancelo and Shaw do, but he performs comparably to the likes of other BGW29 players Cresswell, Coufal and Dallas, all of whom are having scorching seasons.

Upcoming Fixtures

Spurs’ second DGW26 fixture against Fulham is followed by games against Palace, Arsenal, Villa, Newcastle and United. Included in that run is a fixture in BGW29.

Palace, Villa and Newcastle have all suffered horrifying offensive collapses in recent GWs, and Arsenal and United are likely to be closely contested affairs.

Despite FPL’s colourings of grey and red, these fixtures do offer clean sheet potential, as well as the plus side of potential attacking returns.

Verdict – Jump (bring him in)

While there clearly isn’t interest in a Reguilón bandwagon at the moment, I can imagine one could start getting traction should Spurs take a clean sheet from Fulham or Palace.

The extra cash that will be floating around in BGW29 makes Reguilón’s price largely irrelevant for the short term, and if Spurs can improve their defence further, then some Spurs defensive cover would be advisable.

I quite like this defender even if he doesn’t blow me away with attacking potential. My main interest in him is the clean sheets I see Spurs gathering over the next few GWs.

Reguilón is a player I will be watching closely in the lead up to GW29 with a short-term punt in mind.

Targett has quietly gone about his business, accumulating clean sheets and FPL points while everyone’s been eager to use up their funds on more expensive options.

Targett now sits 6th of all defenders with 104 points, and has a staggering 14 clean sheets (and 3 assists) to his name.

And with a game against Sheffield United still to be played in GW26, Targett could well become a surprise bandwagon.

Villa’s defensive numbers have been less awe-inspiring recently, and yet the clean sheets keep coming. Their recent power-house performance against Leeds’ deadly attack serves as a friendly reminder that Villa are a team transformed this season.

Villa’s Defensive Stats GWs17-21 vs GWs22-26 (rank)

Goals Conceded: 7 (Joint 15th) vs 5 (8th)

xGC: 8.6 (17th) vs 6.69 (11th)

Clean Sheets: 2 (Joint 7th) vs 3 (Joint 2nd)

Big Chances Conceded: 11 (Joint 16th) vs 6 (5th)

Shots in Box Conceded: 54 (17th) vs 51 (18th)

Shots on Target Conceded: 28 (18th) vs 31 (19th)

The above does give some hope that Villa are beginning to remedy their ailing defence. Certainly, Martinez is working wonders with 47 saves from 59 shots on target over the last 10 games. The drop in the quality of chances conceded (6 Big Chances conceded, down from 11), and the xGC (6.69, down from 8.6) are particularly encouraging.

It’s worth bearing in mind as well that Villa played City and United between GWs17-21, and numerous strong attacks in GWs22-26 (West Ham, Arsenal, Brighton, Leicester, Leeds). In complete contrast to 5 successive teams in the top half of the table for xG this season, Villa now face 5 successive teams in the bottom half of the xG table.

Upcoming Fixtures

A compelling run of fixtures sees them play goal-shy Wolves, Newcastle and Fulham. The only games in there that should test Targett throughout are the ones against Spurs and Liverpool. Unfortunately, the Spurs game is also in BGW29, which lessens Targett’s appeal.

That said, Martinez is not so easily beaten so a clean sheet in GW29 shouldn’t be written off.

Crucially, Villa may have a DGW coming up as well so Targett could well play 2 more games than most players over the next 3 GWs.

Verdict: Jump

Not the most glamorous pick of the bunch, but Targett is consistent, offers some creativity, and has generally good fixtures. With the exceptions of City and Liverpool , the onus of getting past Martinez could be too much for all of Villa’s remaining opponents.

The main reservation we may have about Targett is that he takes up a valuable Villa slot with one likely already devoted to Martinez, and another reserved for Watkins and / or Grealish. Both of these latter two are appealing options, but perhaps less so against Spurs. Whether we go for Targett on not, we will probably be looking at completing the Villa triple up before GW29, and before GW28 if there is a double.

Overall, I like Targett as a short and long term pick. He’s due a double, will play in the blank, and has some very tasty fixtures coming up. At £4.9m, he’s brilliantly priced for a player who is set to break 150 FPL points.

Thank you for reading!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the fourth article in this new Weekly Series on Bandwagons. Please retweet, follow and join the discussion.

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

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