Predicting the Bandwagon – GW31 Preview

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 31 of Fantasy Premier League.

by @FPL_FIDGET

Recent gameweeks have brought a lot of joy for popular bandwagons, and especially for any regular followers of this Bandwagon series. Lingard and Jota continue to smear excrement on their underlying numbers, Kane continues to reach new heights and Bruno is the gift that keeps giving.

That said, disappointment abounded for other recent bandwagons including Iheanacho (I did say to wait!) and Azpilicueta (yeah I did not see them conceding 5 goals to West Brom).

New bandwagons are emerging, and most of them stem from a Liverpool team that look like their old selves again…

In this section, I evaluate two popular bandwagons currently being jumped on for GW31, and whether they can come good for their new owners…

Players Ranked by Transfers in for GW31

Popular targets this week come as no surprise with all the top 3 discussed in last week’s Bandwagon article and 4 of the top 5 scoring this GW. If you would like to see the stats on Iheanacho and Jota, click here to see the article from last week.

Jota’s 29 minute cameo came with 0.85 xG and 2 goals; Kane recorded a staggering xG of 2.16 alongside his 2 goals; Lingard’s xGI of 0.5 earnt him 2 returns; and Salah notched up 0.78 xG on the way to his goal.

This week we turn to Kane, who hasn’t been looked at since GW26, and Salah, who makes the Bandwagon article for the first time.

Kane has been heralded as a top striker for years, and is often referred to as world-class. However, his performances this season have been nothing short of legendary.

Somehow, Kane has managed to bring his passing and crossing range into his game without losing his goal output. 19 goals and 13 assists in 28 games are the kind of numbers rarely posted in the Premier League, and possibly never by a player whose team is 25 points behind 1st.

Top-Performing Forwards Goal Threat Per 90 – Last 6 Matches

The above clearly shows that Kane is justifying his premium price tag, even above the premium midfielders, as we’ll see later. Kane’s G 90 (0.98) and xG 90 (0.94) is miraculous given how few penalty area touches Kane gets (3.91 – 2nd lowest of these 6).

Top-Performing Forwards Shooting Per 90 – Last 6 Matches

A closer look at the underlying numbers reveals the source of Kane’s high xG: high quality chances. Kane has been receiving 1.3 Big Chances Per 90, which has allowed him to make 2.45 Shots in the Box Per 90, and 1.96 Shots On Target Per 90.

Sometimes things are missed when reading stats so I’ll highlight this again. In his last 6 matches, Kane has 2.45 Shots in the Box Per 90 from 3.91 touches in the box. Staggering. Almost 2 shots for every 3 touches!

As mentioned above, this is due to the sheer quality of the chances Kane is receiving (largely by virtue of Son as you’ll see in the midfielder table later).

Top-Performing Forwards Creativity Per 90 – Last 6 Matches

Kane even compares well in terms of creativity. While he doesn’t create many chances (0.98 per 90), he creates Big ones (0.33 per 90), and posts good xA 90 (0.2).

Kane Per 90: GWs1-10 vs GWs11-20 vs GWs21-30

G: 0.67 vs 0.57 vs 0.75

xG: 0.63 vs 0.34 vs 0.75

A: 0.86 vs 0.23 vs 0.22

xA: 0.13 vs 0.06 vs 0.14

Kane is a truly efficient force, that has risen above all of Spurs’ inconsistency. When Son was playing more advanced in GWs1-10, Kane turned creator (0.13 xA per 90 creating 0.86 A per 90). When Spurs struggled to create for Kane in GWs11-20, he became more clinical (0.57 G per 90 from 0.34 xG per 90).

Across Kane’s career, he has posted excellent xG numbers consistently, and converted his xG clinically. There is every reason to think he will continue to do so

Upcoming Fixtures

The United game in GW31 and the Leicester one in GW38 are hard to predict for Kane. Certainly, you’d expect chances to be reduced as Mourinho looks to limit game-defining moments for Spurs’ bigger opponents. However, the other games look decidedly juicy with the other 6 teams posting poor defensive numbers recently.

DGW32 makes BGW33 an acceptable problem to navigate.

VERDICT – JUMP ON

There is no doubt that Kane is a juggernaut of FPL. He should 100% be in our teams, and in our thoughts each GW for the captaincy.

It seems inevitable to me that he will finish top of FPL this season and that soon he’ll be selected by everyone still playing the game.

The return of Salah is daunting for all the many non-owners. He is about to hit a beautiful run of fixtures, and he has started to score again.

Salah is FPL gold, and even if the form wasn’t there, managers would be swarming on him. However, a goal against Arsenal and another against Madrid, will give Salah and managers confidence that a return to Salah’s best.

Jota’s return also boosts Salah’s appeal, because unlike Firmino and Mane, Jota has proven to be an unshakeable handful for Liverpool’s opponents this season. The chaos and quality he generates will benefit Salah.

That being said, at £12.4m it is certainly worth exploring if Salah justifies that massive outlay.

Premium Midfielders Goal Threat Per 90 – Last 6 Matches

The above table highlights the sudden dearth of high-performing premium options in FPL. In truth, of premiums only Kane (discussed above) can claim to be posting exceptional numbers.

In this context, Salah doesn’t look so bad. His xG 90 is 0.38 and he is receiving 0.82 Big Chances per 90 and having 6.4 Penalty Area Touches per 90. The only two premiums with better numbers – Aubameyang and Sterling – are finding minutes harder to come by recently.

Salah Touch Heatmap – GWs24-26 vs GWs27-30

Jota’s return in the last 4 GWs has had a massive impact on the positions Salah has been able to take up. Although, primarily operating on the left, Jota pops up across the front and creates space for Salah.

However, a large part of Salah’s involvement closer to the goal appears to be only indirectly related to Jota. His presence on the pitch gives Liverpool a greater urgency, and a constant outlet.

Upcoming Fixtures

Opponents xGC – Last 6 Matches (Rank)

AVL: 7.65 (14th)

LEE: 6.21 (6th)

NEW: 7.56 (11th)

MUN: 5.05 (4th)

SOU: 6.81 (9th)

WBA: 7.74 (15th)

BUR: 9.59 (19th)

CRY: 8.27 (18th)

Liverpool have by far the best run of games and in a way even the United game is a little tempting.

In the short term, KDB has Leeds in GW31 and Son has a double in GW32. These GWs aside, with little between Premium assets, Salah’s fixtures look set to swing interest towards Salah.

VERDICT – JUMP ON

Understandably, there is a lot of talk about Jota covering Salah, but the bigger question is whether anyone can afford not to also collect Salah’s points?

Salah’s stats are middling, and actually many mid-price or budget midfielders are comparable as we’ll see later. However, Salah has explosive potential, and with a lot more money floating around this season, that potential is worth the extra funds.

In this section, I look ahead to anticipate who will be the two biggest bandwagons in GW32.

As we’ve seen above, Son has horrible recent numbers for Goal Threat; Son’s early season form was stupendous but entirely unsustainable.

Now Son’s and Kane’s positions have been reversed, and Son is Spurs’ primary creator and Kane their primary scorer.

It is this sublime creation, combined with a favourable fixture run that keeps Son as an interesting option, and one that looks set to become popular in GW32.

Premium Midfielders Creativity Per 90 – Last 6 Matches

Son’s xA 90 of 0.35 is wonderous, and compares well to almost every player in the game. Son’s A 90 is even more incredible, and is the result of creating so many Big Chances (1.21 per 90) and having Kane be the main benefactor of these chances. As we saw above, Kane has been converting these roughly 50% of the time.

Should Son continue to create these unreal chances, he can expect to see Kane continue to convert them and overperform on the xA Son produces, just as Son overperformed on the xA that Kane was creating for Son earlier in the season.

A side-point here is that xA is much harder to predict than xG because of the way the metric is recorded. Big Chances Created is arguably a more helpful metric for predicting assists, and as the above table shows, Son’s Big Chances Created are far beyond his competitors.

Is Son’s Form Unsustainable?

Since GW24, Son has averaged 0.1 xG per 90 and hasn’t scored. However, before that Son had scored 0.6 goals per 90 this season and collected 0.32 xG per 90. Across Son’s career (according to Understat), Son has averaged 0.34 xG per 90, scoring 0.47 goals per 90, which is a 37% overperformance of his xG.

These numbers may seem too distant to be helpful, but the consistency of Son is incredible. According to Understat, Son has averaged the following xG 90s in his previous 6 seasons at Spurs: 0.33, 0.35, 0.37, 0.43, 0.34, 0.34.

Son has done this in varying Spurs teams, and there is every reason to suggest Son will return to similar numbers soon… and 0.34 xG 90 (Son’s career average) would put him up there with Bruno, Salah and KDB among premiums.

Upcoming Fixtures

Spurs’ games against United, Everton and later their games against Leeds and Leicester could be perfect for Son who will be utilised on the counter-attack. His other games are even more attractive as you would expect Spurs to dominate these games and create plenty of chances.

The extra fixture in DGW32 makes Son a key target for that gameweek, even if he isn’t kept for the spell that follows it.

VERDICT – JUMP ON

While Son’s underlying numbers aren’t fantastic, they are good enough to warrant interest. The fixtures and Son’s pedigree mean that those underlying numbers are likely to improve.

For me, from GW32 onwards, Son looks like a prime target. I may well keep him through to GW36 as games against Sheffield United and Leeds are highly appealing. If Son’s numbers haven’t risen significantly by then, I would naturally look to move him on for his tougher fixtures.

In recent weeks, Trent has been posting point scores that justify his price tag; he has 33 points in his last 5 appearances, which is more than he managed in his previous 9 appearances (2nd best form of all FPL players).

His offensive numbers have been excellent all season, but they have been lifted slightly in recent weeks, and so has Liverpool’s clean sheet potential.

This combined with Liverpool’s fixture run means that Trent will definitely be high up on people’s wish lists over the coming weeks.

Liverpool’s Defensive Numbers Per Match GWs1-24 vs GWs25-30 (Rank)

GC: 1.3 (11th) vs 0.75 (Joint 2nd)

xGC: 1.2 (6th) vs 1.01 (4th)

Clean Sheets: 0.25 (14th) vs 0.5 (Joint 3rd)

Shots Conceded in Box: 5.5 (2nd) vs 5.9 (5th)

Shots On Target: 3.6 (6th) vs 3.7 (8th)

Big Chances Conceded: 2.0 (15th) vs 1.7 (Joint 6th)

Interestingly, Liverpool’s defensive numbers have been fairly good all season, and they have been ridiculously unfortunate in how well their opponents have capitalised on scoring opportunities.

The frustration in FPL terms wasn’t the respectable 1.3 goals conceded on average between GWs1-24, but the poor 0.25 Clean Sheet average over this period.

As many underlying numbers are so similar, there is little to suggest that Liverpool’s recent clean sheet success will continue. However, the drop in Big Chances Conceded, and the improvement in fixtures does offer some cause for positivity.

Most Offensive Defenders Per 90 – Last 6 Matches

Besides Alonso who admittedly reigns supreme as an attacking asset, Trent has incredible numbers. Unlike other high performing defenders in good defences – Alonso, Cancelo and James – Trent is nailed for minutes so rotation won’t be a concern.

Trent’s xA 90 has been 0.33 over the last 6 matches, which far exceeds high performers Digne and Cancelo (0.19). Trent has also created more chances per 90 (2.85) than any others with Shaw’s 2.08 nearest. Trent again tops for Big Chances created (0.71) compared to next best Alonso (0.54).

It’s true that Trent posts a poor xG per 90, but then that’s also the case for all but the rotation-risks of Alonso (0.19) and Cancelo (0.09).

Upcoming Fixtures

Opponents xG – Last 6 Matches (Rank)

AVL: 6.37 (17th)

LEE: 7.69 (14th)

NEW: 8.13 (9th)

MUN: 7.84 (12th)

SOU: 7.93 (10th)

WBA: 7.83 (13th)

BUR: 6.38 (16th)

CRY: 3.68 (20th)

Incredibly, Newcastle have been posting the best xG 90 of all Liverpool’s remaining opponents, none of which have been in the top 8 for xG 90 over the last 6 matches. And even in terms of longer term form, Liverpool only face United of this season’s top 8.

These fixtures are highly favourable for clean sheets and with Trent’s excellent creativity numbers, we should expect to see Trent listed among the most likely to return in every remaining gameweek bar GW34.

VERDICT – JUMP ON

As I finish writing this article, I can’t help but reflect on Liverpool’s abysmal Champions League showing against Real Madrid (I’m writing this on Tuesday night). Despite Madrid far outperforming their xG, I can’t help but feel that Liverpool were lucky Madrid didn’t score more as they carved out chance after chance.

This performance aside, I am still confident in both Trent and Liverpool. Madrid were sensational, and Liverpool won’t play a team half as attacking in their remaining Prem games. Arguably Liverpool were naïve to play such a high defensive line and to leave Thiago on the bench for most of the harrowing first half.

I imagine Liverpool may be unexpectedly taken apart again this season in the Prem, but the explosiveness of Trent makes these aberrations acceptable in my eyes.

He is a defender who averages an xGI large enough to embarrass most midfielders and many forwards. Add his xCS, and Trent joins illustrious company as a player capable of returning in 60%+ of his remaining games.

Thank you for reading!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the latest 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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