The Hidden Gems of the 2020/21 FPL Season

In this article, we assess the hidden gems responsible for many of our best gameweeks this season, and discuss why they have been a revelation. We also look at how we can identify future hidden gems.

Article written by @Cardiff_FPL.

In more ways than one, the FPL 2020/21 season has been a memorable journey, particularly the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It looks as if we are going to complete this season with Manchester City being crowned Champions, with the remaining Champions League spots being fought over in the last few weeks.

There have been some stand out performers this season and my intention for this article is to turn the spotlight onto the “Hidden Gems” that we knew little about at the start of the season.

I consider that the four players that I’m going to turn the spotlight on have all greatly enhanced their reputations this season. These are: Ilkay Gundogan, Jesse Lingard, Raphinha and Kelechi Iheanacho.

How many FPL managers can hold their hands up and say that at the start of the season they thought that any of those mentioned would be amongst the stand out performers in the Premier League this season?

Ilkay Gundogan

(Photo by RUI VIEIRA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Like many Manchester City players, Ilkay Gundogan plays in the shadow of one of the Premier League’s stand out performers in Kevin De Bruyne, who almost inevitably overshadows his colleagues.

Since his move to the Etihad Stadium in the 2016/17 season, Gundogan hasn’t exactly set the FPL world alight with his returns. A meagre total of just 301 points over a four year period, an average of 75.25 points per season is nothing to write home about. His previous best season was in 2018/19 when he picked up 113 points from 2,129 minutes played, comprising of six goals and three assists.

At the start of this season FPL managers probably had a very low expectation threshold for returns from Gundogan. However, between Gameweeks 13 – 27 “Gundo” made an outstanding contribution which has assisted City snatching the title back from Liverpool. It was a relatively low-key start to the season, but Gundogan exploded into life with a goal and a 10 point haul against West Bromwich Albion in Gameweek 13.

Prior to that Gundogan had played just 390 minutes of Premier League football, with no goals and no assists. A tweak to his role within the team saw him starting to play in a far more advanced position, where he popped up regularly in and around the box.

In that period, Gundogan was the stand out performer in the Premier League scoring a remarkable 130 FPL points. Bruno Fernandes was in second place with an impressive 123 points. When you look at the key stats Gundogan’s output was truly remarkable in comparison to more of the better known ‘Premium Players’. The statistics below are taken for the period from Gameweek 13 – 27 inclusive. In this time he made 17 appearances (1353 mins).

MetricPL Ranking
FPL Points (130)1st
Goals (12)1st
Assists (3)=5th
Shots (40)7th
Shots on target (20)3rd
xG (8.04)1st
Goal Involvement (37%)32nd
xA (3.42)14th

In the spell between Gameweeks 13 – 27, Gundogan picked up six double digit hauls and was only one or two points off a further four. Undoubtedly, his stand out performance for FPL managers was in Gameweek 24 when City faced Tottenham. He had just come off the back of a stunning 13 point haul against Liverpool at Anfield, so given that and it was a double Gameweek he was the popular choice for the Captain’s armband.

He certainly didn’t disappoint as he took Spurs apart with two goals and an assist in the 68 minutes that he was on the pitch. A groin injury forced an early departure from the game and for him to miss the second game against Everton. However, the 19 points that he picked up were a welcome compensation.

It’s no surprise to find that when Gundogan hit his purple patch, Manchester City were simply outperforming every other Premier League team with 15 victories, 1 draw and just 1 defeat. In that period they topped the League for number of shots, shots on target, highest xG (41.08) and goals scored (44).

Everything points to Gundo’s personal form making a huge contribution to City’s overall exceptional form during that period.

With the return to fitness of KDB after a spell on the sidelines and with a more or less full squad to choose from, Pep has managed his players’ game time wisely as City set their sights on winning the Champions League Trophy.

Since Gameweek 27, Gundogan has played just 122 minutes of Premier League football with no goals and no assists. Manchester City are within touching distance of being crowned as Champions and Gundogan’s overwhelming contribution mustn’t be underestimated. Gundogan is a fantastic player and he has had an outstanding season. Definitely one to look out for next season!

Jesse Lingard

At the start of the season, Jesse Lingard was out of favour for whatever reason and languishing in the reserves at Manchester United. When it came to Premier League football he didn’t have a look in.

All of that was about to change when West Ham made the bold move to bring him to The Hammers for a loan spell. Lingard signed for West Ham on 29th January on loan until the end of the season. Just days later he made his debut scoring two goals in a 3 – 1 victory over Aston Villa at Villa Park. The Hammers fans had a new idol whilst many FPL managers noted his 15 point haul from that game.

Since his debut in Gameweek 22, Lingard has taken the PL by storm and his FPL ownership has rocketed to 31.9%. He offers managers great value at just £6.6m. What is even more remarkable is his level of consistency delivering FPL returns in nine of his 11 games for West Ham. The statistics below are taken for the period from Gameweek 22 – 33 inclusive. In this time he made 11 appearances (973 mins).

MetricPL RankingMidfielder Ranking
FPL Points (91)1st1st
Goals (9)=2nd1st
Assists (4)=3rd=3rd
Shots (33)5th3rd
Shots on target (19)1st1st
xG (5.54)5th2nd
Goal Involvement (59%)4th1st
xA (2.00)36th22nd

Between Gameweeks 22 – 33 West Ham produced the 8th highest number of shots on target, their xG of 19.16 was the 8th highest and their 22 goals in that period was only bettered by Manchester City, Manchester United and Leicester City.

Remarkably, Lingard picked up five double digit hauls in those eleven games and an impressive 13 bonus points. He has been averaging 8.27 points per game as a West Ham player. No one can argue with the significant positive impact that Jesse Lingard has made to the West Ham cause in their quest for European football.

He has been immense and a brilliant loan signing for David Moyes. If you also consider the number of major injuries that West Ham have suffered recently, particularly Declan Rice and Michail Antonio. No doubt you would expect a serious bid by The Hammers to make the move permanent in the summer, which is expected to be at least £15 million.

Raphinha

Raphael Dias Belloli signed for newly promoted Leeds United on 5th October 2020 for a fee in the region of £17m. He went on to make his debut for Leeds coming on for an eight minute cameo against Wolverhampton Wanderers in Gameweek 5.

He didn’t make his full debut until Gameweek 9 in a goalless draw with Arsenal. Since then, Raphinha has been a permanent fixture in the Leeds side although he has missed the last couple of games through injury.

Raphinha has become an important cog in a finely tuned Leeds machine. The statistics below are taken for the period Gameweek 9 – 31 when he picked up his injury. In this time he made 23 appearances (2010 mins).

MetricPL RankingMidfielder Ranking
FPL Points (112)11th6th
Goals (6)=27th=5th
Assists (7)=4th=3rd
Shots (58)7th4th
Shots on target (22)=9th4th
xG (5.83)27th12th
Goal Involvement (37%)15th11th
xA (7.74)3rd3rd

Arguably, Raphinha has become best known for his creative flair out wide producing a string of FPL assists. He has ensured that Leeds have become one of the most attractive Premier League teams to watch and he has also contributed to ensuring that they survived their first season back in the PL.

Only Kevin De Bruyne and Bruno Fernandes have more assists amongst midfielders. His biggest return of the season came in Gameweek 20 when he scored a goal, picked up an assist and three bonus points as Leeds beat Newcastle 1 – 2 at St James’ Park. Another 13 points to add to his tally.

It’s fair to say that had it not been for some average Leeds finishing, Raphinha’s overall key stats would be a lot more impressive. He has created countless big chances which haven’t produced the results that they deserve.

One game in particular stands out (the Wolves game at Molineux), Raphinha was on fire. He is the master of dead ball situations scoring with some excellent free kicks but more often than not it’s his crosses into the box that causes the problems. On that particular night Raphinha could have easily walked away with four assists had it not been for some glorious chances missed by Liam Cooper in particular. He is an exceptional talent.

Kelechi Iheanacho

Kelechi Iheanacho has been a revelation since his introduction as a regular in the Leicester side earlier in the season. The Foxes were plagued with a series of injuries to first team players so up stepped “Nacho”.

He made the move to Leicester in August 2017 after a disappointing spell at Manchester City where his game time was limited. Up until recently he has experienced the same problem at The Foxes where he has played second fiddle to Jamie Vardy. One could now say that he is a great understudy to have.

In the last ten Premier League games Iheanacho has scored 88 FPL points which exceeds his previous best tally over the last few seasons. Prior this this season, his best points tally of 80 was in the 2015/16 season whilst at Manchester City. He started to play on a regular basis from Gameweek 22 onwards missing just the two games against Liverpool and Aston Villa.

It’s easy to see the huge impact that he has made since breaking into the team regularly. All the statistics below are taken from the period of Gameweek 22 – 33 inclusive. In this time he has made 10 appearances (829 mins).

MetricPL RankingForward Ranking
FPL Points (78)2nd1st
Goals (10)1st1st
Assists (1)=5th
Shots (34)4th2nd
Shots on target (15)5th3rd
xG (5.94)3rd2nd
Goal Involvement (61%)3rd3rd
xA (3.02)8th2nd

Rather than be in a direct competition with each other, it so happens that Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho have forged a great attacking partnership and it could be argued that Vardy has in fact become the supplier rather than the finisher over the past ten Gameweeks.

They have struck up a great understanding which has seen Leicester score 23 goals in those ten games. During that period only Manchester City and Manchester United have scored more goals than Leicester.

Iheanacho has produced three double digit hauls, the biggest of which was 17 points when he struck a hat trick in the 5 – 0 demolition of Sheffield United. He picked up another two goals against West Ham and he bagged himself another goal and an assist in the most recent game against Crystal Palace. The goal was a stunning left foot pile driver from outside the box.

Everything he touches at the moment seems to turn to gold. Iheanacho is certainly on fire at the moment as his popularity surges daily. He is currently owned by 22.8% of managers and is a steal at £6.2m. There is no doubting the huge part that he has played in getting The Foxes in a position where Champions League qualification is within touching distance.

Uncovering the Next Gems

Premium assets do not always guarantee success. Therefore, if you can get one step ahead of the rest of the pack then as an FPL manager you are onto a winner. The aim is to identify those hidden gems before their popularity and value grows and if you do so it’s a godsend, but how do we find those players?

We are looking for the rough diamond or the needle in a haystack to combine with some proven ‘Premium’ assets who are going to deliver big FPL points.

There is no direct science in picking a successful FPL team. Likewise when it comes to uncovering the hidden stars of the game. Managers generally use a combination of ‘the eye test’ and statistics in their decision making process, on top of that there other considerations like fixtures and form.

Both the eye test and stats have positives. However, looking at stats may offer an advantage over the eye test in that they offer a measurable means of interpreting football matches. Things to consider in trying to identify the next gem:

  • Monitor transfer activity during the transfer window & try to identify proven stars/rising stars new to the Premier League.
  • Monitor games to identify ‘stand out’ players based on performance.
  • Monitor statistics to see which players are starting to produce the goods whether it be clean sheets, shots, key passes, assists or goals (xG/xA etc).
  • Look for players who offer both excellent value for money & show good potential.
  • Look for transfer trends to see if certain players are being targeted. Ideally, we need to bring that player in before their ownership grows.
  • Look at playing time. If a talented player is beginning to get more and more playing time, chances are they may begin to deliver FPL points.

You will often see many FPL managers ‘taking a punt’ on a particular player purely on a gut feeling/instinct that the player is likely to deliver a performance and deliver FPL returns.

Sometimes taking a chance on a player pays dividends but ideally you need to do your research whether it be the eye test or statistics, but ideally a combination of both. Picking ‘differential’ players with low ownership and producing good FPL returns can make a huge difference to your overall rank. A high performing differential is perhaps the ultimate moment for FPL managers.

For us FPL mangers, it has been a blessing in disguise that we have had some “hidden gems” this season, particularly if you were fortunate enough to sign them at the right time to maximise your points. Some of them may have been rough diamonds at the start of the season but they are now polished gems.

I would suggest that all four players have not only graced the Premier League this season but also made significant contributions to their clubs. FPL managers have certainly appreciated the huge returns that they have provided. Some may even argue that at some point during the season they became ‘essential’ assets.

Let’s look forward to them delivering not only great football to watch but plenty of FPL points not only for the remainder of this season but for the foreseeable future. There is no doubt that next season some more “Hidden Gems” will be discovered for FPL managers to cash in on. We all await in excited anticipation.

All statistics referred to have been obtained from Fantasy Football Hub or the official FPL site.

Thank you for reading and I hope that you enjoyed the article. Any feedback is welcomed.

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