Gameweek 38 Differential Guide

In the following article, we discuss the best one week punts to make FPL GW38 as memorable as possible. We also look at the best differential captain options for overhauling the leader in your mini-league or making a late surge for your desired rank.

This is it, the end, the final hurdle, gameweek 38. The curtain falls on a truly memorable season for both good and bad, the chaotic 2020/21 campaign is finally at an end.

It has been a season like no other, with postponements and player absences wreaking havoc at various points, creating an unpredictable cocktail of variance that has made FPL more challenging than ever.

We now look toward the next campaign with optimism, the chance to start again with a full arsenal of chips is most appealing.

It’s not quite over yet though, we have the small matter of gameweek 38 to attend to. Ranks will be finalised, mini-leagues won or lost and bragging rights will be secured. So much is at stake, but it is also a week to enjoy and celebrate the season’s end.

GW38 is typically a manic gameweek, with rotation a plenty and most teams without anything to play for. We’ve seen some crazy moments in seasons past. Man City relegated themselves in 1995/96 as they believed a 2-2 draw would be enough to survive and proceeded to waste time as much as possible, it transpired that manager Alan Ball had been incorrectly told that rivals Coventry were losing when it fact they were also drawing, this comical mix-up lead to City unwittingly sealing their own doom.

The final day in 2005/06 saw the infamous Lasagne-gate contribute to Spurs missing out on Champions League football, with North-London rivals Arsenal pipping them to fourth spot. Three years earlier Chelsea beat Liverpool to also secure a top four spot, a game that is said to have convinced Roman Abramovich to buy the club that summer, which would lead to a seismic change in England’s football landscape.

We’ve seen City clinch the title, United share ten goals with West Brom and already relegated Newcastle put five past Spurs. The final day is full of drama, full of surprises and has given us some of the most memorable moments in Premier League history.

From an FPL perspective it is a bit of a free hit, with lineups hard to predict and historical stats and data often going out the window. It is above all else a week to have fun, whether that be protecting a high finish or taking an out there punt on a differential.

Differential Captains

Captaincy is the biggest decision in most gameweeks, however the importance is amplified when there is just one week left. With no time left, a haul or blank can be season defining and with potentially such a great variance in scores this week nailing the right captain can be significant deciding factor on your final rank.

Joe Willock (£4.8m) continues to catch the eye after scoring in six consecutive matches, becoming the youngest player in Premier League history to achieve the feat and just the third Newcastle player to do so, after Papiss Cisse and Alan Shearer.

Willock can match Shearer’s tally of seven games with a goal away to Fulham in GW38 and it is likely he will be given ample time to equal the record in what is likely to be his final appearance for the club.

This is more than just a punt on a player on a hot streak, Willock is producing elite level numbers. His expected goals (xG) total of 3.15 is the second best of all midfielders over the last six matches and despite overachieving this it is clear he is receiving a high number of good quality chances. His total of five big chances and ten shots in the box (SiTB) in that time are also comparable to the league’s best.

The Arsenal loanee is playing in a side that appears to be benefiting from the freedom of securing survival early. Newcastle are fourth for xG (10.13) over the last six matches and it looks as though manager Steve Bruce has finally taken the handbrake off now that his side are out of danger. Couple that with the fact that Fulham are seventh worst for expected goals conceded (xGC) in that time and you have a potentially explosive asset in Willock.

Fulham’s defensive stats have declined further since their relegation was confirmed, suggesting Newcastle could be well placed for a big win to end their turbulent season. At just 7.15% owned in the top 10k, Willock is a huge differential even without the armband, but given the strength of his stats, Newcastle’s recent attacking form and Fulham’s collapse he stands out as a punt that has a realistic chance of delivering a big score.

Liverpool are likely to be popular for captaincy this week, with many opting for Mo Salah (£12.8m) in the hope that the power of fans at Anfield will pull him towards another golden boot.

I would certainly never discourage anyone from going for Salah and all told he is probably the best overall captain for gameweek 38. However, it is likely his effective ownership will be exceptionally high meaning the impact of a haul is significantly dampened. For those ten or more points away from their league rival or target rank it is likely that gambling against Salah represents the most realistic route to making up ground.

Fortunately, Sadio Mane (£11.7m) shares the plum Palace fixture with his Egyptian colleague and despite a poor campaign he has sharply improved his numbers and output of late. The Senegalese has assisted in back to back games and is among the top six players for expected goal involvement (xGI) over the last six matches, suggesting an attacking return is highly likely against the long suffering Palace defence.

As the table above shows, Mane has had a similar percentage of his shots in the box to Salah lately and despite shooting at almost half the frequency he has managed just one fewer big chance. Mane has also converted two big chances to Salah’s one, suggesting he has been more clinical when presented with the opportunity to score.

Despite showing patches of defensive solidity, Palace are the third worst side for xGC over the season. The Eagles have been a team to target all term and look particularly vulnerable in a week where Liverpool finally play at home with fans and require a big win to be certain of a top four finish.

Mane is producing excellent numbers and given what is at stake and the opposition he is facing, I believe he represents one of the best differential captain picks this week. He is likely to be involved should Liverpool find the net and those backing against Salah can do so with the confidence that they are relying on a legitimate world class operator.

The number one differential captain, in my opinion, is Michail Antonio (£6.6m). The West Ham man is quite often a stats monster but appears to have taken this to new heights lately. Antonio leads the league for xG among strikers over the last six and is second for xGI in that time.

The English striker netted against West Brom in GW37, his fifth attacking return in six matches and looks set to play a starring role as fans return to the London Stadium in GW38. West Ham play Southampton on the final day, the Saints defence has been plagued by inconsistency all season and lie seventh bottom for xGC over the campaign.

Things appear to have worsened in recent weeks, they now lie sixth from bottom for the same metric over the last six matches. In that time, West Ham are ranked second for xG (11.27), only bettered by Liverpool, and with the Hammers needing a win the secure sixth spot and a Europa League place it is likely they will go all out to win.

Antonio has mustered six big chances in his last six games, one more than Mane and Willock, and is second of all forwards for penalty area touches and SiTB in that time. A haul appears imminent and Southampton may be the team to offer it up.

I would pick Antonio over Mane or Willock based on not only goal threat but also the opposition. Southampton are still struggling with injuries and are unlikely to deploy a low block to stifle the West Ham counter. Palace will probably look to keep things tight rather than risk a demolition on Roy Hodgson’s final game in management, and Fulham are certainly likely to work hard to avoid defeat in front of their own fans.

By and large, Southampton only defend one way. Their high line has been one to target at various points of the campaign and it is hard to imagine much changing in the final game. Leeds exploited Saints’ weaknesses well as they ran out 3-0 winners in GW37, I expect West Ham to have similar joy and with Antonio producing such great numbers it is possible to imagine him being the highest scoring player this week. As such he makes an ideal differential captain candidate.

Differential Punts

I’ll keep this section simple, there is one outstanding punt this week for me and it’s a Man City player. No, not that one. Ferran Torres (£7.0m) dazzled FPL managers with a hattrick in GW36, yet remarkably he is still only owned by 1.88% of the top 10k managers.

Minutes have been an issue for Man City assets of late and as such we will use per 90 statistics to compare them here. As the table above shows Torres leads the way, his 0.94 big chances and 2.34 SiTB per 90 minutes is significant increase on the totals of most of his colleagues. Torres also tops the City charts for xG and xGI per 90 over the last six matches, a clean sweep on the data front that illustrates how good an asset he can be when he plays.

Picking a City asset that is likely to get significant minutes can be a tall order. Many went for Phil Foden (£6.1m) and Riyad Mahrez (£8.1m) in GW36 as their recent involvement seemed to point towards a start, Pep clearly had other ideas as both were benched while the unfancied Torres stole the show.

One can never completely predict Pep roulette, although there are times when it appears easier to gamble on. Torres was hooked after just 15 minutes in GW37, an unfortunate sacrifice to counter Joao Cancelo’s (£5.8m) red card. This early sub combined with 90 minutes for Foden and Mahrez appears to suggest that the Spaniard is likely to get another chance in the starting lineup at home to Everton.

With Raheem Sterling (£11.0m) not fully fit and Sergio Aguero (£10.3m) facing a late fitness battle there are few contenders to start ahead of Torres, especially given Pep is unlikely to risk his strongest side ahead of the Champions League final.

The stars appear to have aligned for a punt on Torres, it looks about as safe as it is possible to be under Guardiola. With fans back and City lifting the Premier League trophy post match, it is reasonable to expect a committed display whichever lineup does take the field.

City’s opponents Everton are another side that has struggled for defensive consistency this season. The Toffees are mid table for SiTB and big chances conceded over the season despite still having an outside chance of finishing sixth in the actual table. With City motivated to produce a champion’s performance, I believe there is a good chance of a haul for one of their starting attackers.

The narrative has been to punt on Aguero in GW38, the Argentine has been a true PL and FPL legend and many managers want one last chance to own him. I fear that it will be a send off and nothing more, Aguero is still not fully fit and Guardiola has played down his chances of major involvement of late. As fun as it sounds, I would not take the gamble on Aguero and instead focus on Torres since his involvement seems far more secure.

The other two punts I would consider are Roberto Firmino (£9.0m) and Timo Werner (£9.2m). Both have endured inconsistent seasons but have been producing better numbers of late.

Werner had two goals ruled out and won a penalty against Leicester. He was unlucky not to haul and was massively involved in almost all of Chelsea’s attacking play. Chelsea still require a win to be certain of Champions League qualification and as such I would expect not only a full strength side, but also a committed performance away to Villa.

Werner has been frustrating to own this season, but his recent numbers have been good and he looks well placed to return against a recently inconsistent Villa backline.

Firmino has seen his FPL stock fall in recent seasons, mainly due to a lack of goals. The Brazilian has scored three in his last six, a mini renaissance and has also managed an assist in that time. The major appeal for Firmino is his fixture, with the aforementioned Palace likely to provide an excellent opportunity for him to continue his good form.

Indeed, Firmino has already hauled once against the Eagles this season. His two goals and one assist helped him to a 16 pointer at Selhurst Park in GW14, the second highest gameweek score by a Liverpool player this campaign. With his good recent performance and the return of fans to Anfield, I believe another good score could be on the horizon for the South American.

Despite the convincing cases for Werner and Firmino, I would still put both behind Torres. The Spaniard is far easier to accommodate due to his price and there are less high performing players in his position for him to compete with. A move for Werner or Firmino, while high impact, would require jettisoning the likes of Antonio or Patrick Bamford (£6.5m) and as such represents far more risk than doing Diogo Jota (£6.9m) or Mason Greenwood (£7.3m) to Torres, given that neither is likely to feature this week.

Torres is heavily involved in the City attack when he plays and represents a great route to a potentially big score. With his ownership so low, a haul could make an enormous difference to rank or mini league position and above all else it is fun to own a starting City asset as few offer the upside that they do.

I hope you enjoyed my final article of the season. It has been a pleasure to write for FPL Connect and you can expect to see much more from the team and I over the summer and next season. Best of luck to you all for GW38!

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

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