Hello all! After an incredibly busy period over the Festive Season, I’ve managed to get some time to write an article on Free Hit options for GW18! I’ll use FPL Points as a starting metric to identify players. If you’re unfamiliar with this as a way of identifying FPL players – please read my explanatory article here.
Let’s dive in…
Note: With the Villa v Spurs game in doubt now, I won’t include any players from those teams here.
The team that have given up the most FPL points to Keepers is Sheffield United (SHU) with 93 FPL points over 17 games, and so naturally, Karl Darlow (£5m) is an appealing choice. He is 3rd for saves over the course of the season, with 64 from 89 shots on target faced. SHU have only had 10 shots on target in their last 4 games and are looking like they’re down already. Looking specifically at their home form, only West Brom have conceded more FPL points per game to keepers than SHU, so I think Darlow is a great pick this week. It’s worth noting that both teams here are poor offensively, so a 0-0 could be on the cards. We could also consider the likes of Leno, De Gea or Ederson/Steffen here, but they take up a valuable spot in teams we likely want to max out on with outfield players.
This week sees a solid defensive unit in Man City at home to a Brighton team that are just outside the top 5 teams overall for giving up the most FPL Points to opposing defenders. Away from home, Brighton are only conceding an average of 13.5 FPL points per game (PPG), but I feel that a City defender is a really good shout this week. With 15 shots on target from 60 in their last 4, Brighton are getting a shot on target for every 4 they take. Man City have conceded 8 shots on target in their last 4 games, and it’s clear they’re in a good place.
Looking at other games, Burnley are 3rd overall for most FPL Points conceded to defenders, with 293 points in 15 games, so United defenders could be a good shout. At home, Burnley sit just outside the highest 5 teams averaging 16.1 FPL PPG conceded. They’ve had 17 shots on target in their last 4 games which is pretty much bang in the middle for the league, but only 3 goals. Saying that, United are conceding a lot of shots on target, the 6th most (16) in the last 4, but they’re in the title race now, so I think they’ll put in a great performance. Specific players here would probably be Aaron Wan Bissaka (£5.3m) and Harry Maguire (£5.4m), as the others are a bit more prone to rotation. Burnley aren’t conceding many chances down AWB’s flank, or many headed attempts on goal, so attacking output from defenders may be limited, but I’d be pretty hopeful of a clean sheet.
Arsenal are the next team I think we should consider. Crystal Palace have conceded 277 FPL points to opposition defenders in 17 games, with 169 of those away from home, an average of 21.1 FPL points to opposition defensive units. I have to concede that Arsenal defenders at home haven’t been overly productive over the course of the season, averaging 8.9 PPG as a unit in their 8 home games. But they appear to be turning a corner now. 13 shots on target and 5 goals conceded in their last 4 home games, with Palace only having 11 shots on target and 3 goals in their last 4 games. The obvious choice based on form would be Kieran Tierney (£5.4m), with a goal and 2 assists in his last 3 games. Of the teams playing this week, Palace have conceded the most chances down the right flank (16) in the last 4 games. Looking at Tierney’s average position v West Brom, he was only just behind Aubameyang most of that game, showing how attacking he can be.
The final team I’d take a look at are Newcastle, with similar rationale used to explain why we’ve picked Darlow above. SHU have conceded a whopping 384 FPL points to opposition defenders this season, the most by 50 points. At home, they are giving up an average of 22.5 PPG to that position. Unfortunately, Newcastle defenders have scored the 3rd least FPL points, so we’re truly in punt territory and playing the fixture. If we are going to go down this rabbit hole, the most reliable defender appears to be Federico Fernandez (£4.7m), but that might be a bit expensive for a lot of FPL managers. Enter DeAndre Yedlin (£4.3m). He’s started the last 4 games and on that right wing, he is playing pretty far forward for the Magpies. SHU are allowing more crosses down that flank than the opposite side by nearly double (48 to 25), so that could be a weak spot for Newcastle to target.
Honourable mention for Romain Saiss (£5.1m) as an incredibly attacking defender. In their last 4, Everton have conceded 12 headed attempts on goal (only Man U, West Brom and Arsenal have conceded more) and 16 attempts from set pieces (only Palace, Arsenal and Leeds have conceded more). If Wolves start him, he could do well here.
Midfield shows us a true dream matchup this week. Man City, who are the 3rd highest scoring FPL midfield unit, play Brighton, who have conceded the 4th most FPL Points to opposition midfielders. A green vs green match, if you will. The double up in midfield for City is now incredibly appealing, but as always, if Pep is gonna Pep, we could get stung by rotation. Over the last 4 games, Ilkay Gundogan (£5.4m) leads the way on 33 FPL points. He’s had 10 shots (only behind KDB who has 13), 5 on target (joint 1st) and 7 shots in the box (1st). He was mentioned on the Wolfpack Podcast by my good friend @LowFPLTSB a few weeks ago and has gone on an incredible run since. It’s up to you if you use up a City spot on him, but he could be a great cheap enabler. Raheem Sterling (£11.4m) is around 5% owned and could be a fantastic differential this week. Only De Bruyne has created more big chances than Raz in their last 4 matches, and after a hat trick vs Brighton last year, he might fancy his chances again. I could go on and on about Kevin De Bruyne (£11.7m) here, but I’d likely only be saying things you already know. He is an elite player, who until the Chelsea game hasn’t been backing up his underlying numbers. I do think a lot of that as due to him playing as a False 9 though. If that becomes frequent, then his ownership will soar, but you never know where Pep will deploy him.
Burnley v Man United throws up an interesting battle. Man United Midfielders have scored the 2nd most FPL points so far this season with 402 points overall and 206 of these coming away from home. This is translating to an average of a league high 29.4 PPG on the road. They come up against a Burnley side that have only conceded 260 FPL Points to opposition midfielders, the 4th lowest in the league. When you break this down to PPG at home, only Spurs and Man City have conceded less, showing how little Burnley give away at this position. I took a look at any “Hauls” (Double Digit Returns) Burnley have conceded to midfielders (and the average positions of these “haulers”) to see if I could spot any trends:
– Barnes 13 points – GW2 – Left Wing, furthest forward
– ASM 12 points – GW4 – Left wing, only behind Callum Wilson
– Son 11 points – GW6 – Left wing – furthest forward
– Ziyech 14 points – GW7 – relatively central, only just behind Timo Werner
– De Bruyne 10 points – central, 4th most advanced, Mahrez 21 points – right wing, just behind Gabriel Jesus – GW10
Most of the players “hauling” here are wingers. It would be foolish of me to suggest ignoring Bruno Fernandes (£11.3m) and I wouldn’t suggest that in a Free Hit, but I also like the look of Marcus Rashford (£9.6m) based on the above information. With players like Barnes and Son doing well from that position I’d back Rashford to do the same.
Bukayo Saka (£5.3m) has the form and the price to be a great enabler this week. At midfielders for his price and below, he’s had the most shots (8), most shots in the box and is only behind Soucek for shots on target, over the last 3 gameweeks. He also has 2 assists, which is one less than Emile Smith Rowe (£4.4m) who is another great enabler this week. Whilst the fixture is middling in terms of the metric, these guys are cheaper enablers for our squads.
Only West Brom have conceded more FPL Points to Forwards than Crystal Palace. With his recent form, my immediate thoughts turn to Alexandre Lacazette (£8.3m) as a great differential this week. In his last 3 appearances he has 4 goals and is bang in form. He also made an electric start to the season with 3 in his first 3, before being in and out of the team. One thing to note is that Palace have been a lot tighter in this metric away from home, only conceding an average of 6 PPG. For context, West Brom are averaging 9.3 PPG conceded to opposition Forwards on their travels.
For our final suggestion, we find ourselves with another “Green vs Green” matchup. Newcastle Forwards have scored the 3rd most FPL points at that position with 153. SHU have conceded the 3rd most FPL Points to opposition forwards (116). Looking at the specific fixture, Newcastle Forwards average 10 PPG away from home. SHU only concede an average of 5.8 PPG to forwards when they play at home but if Newcastle are going to score, it’s likely to be Callum Wilson (£6.5m). He has only had 5 shots in the last 4 weeks however, with only 2 on target. So he does come with a bit of risk.
So there we go. A different approach to FPL, and one that if used with the usual combination of stats and eye test, can really help you out!
Home/Away Data including the specific matchup data for this week for any additional research: